When his cousin’s life depended on donated blood, Northridge resident Hugo Velasco jumped at the chance to help, but was deferred from donating on account of policies applied to gay and bi-sexual male donors. This was deeply painful for Hugo, knowing his cousin was in need and he could not help.
The American Red Cross has long been in support of changing the policy concerning sexually active gay men and was a leading contributor to the FDA-funded study that led to the recent changes in donor eligibility. Finally, on Monday, Aug. 7, 2023, Red Cross blood donation centers were among the first in the nation to implement the new FDA blood donor guidelines, which signaled a long awaited and welcomed shift towards a more inclusive and equitable blood donation policy.
“A portion of the gay community who in the past were not allowed to donate blood are now not only eligible but welcomed,” said Dr. Catherine Mazzei, Medical Director American Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region. “We’re very excited that based on years of scientific data it’s shown that this new individual approach, rather than a gender-based approach is as safe, if not safer than previous methods.”
Ironically, Hugo works as a blood collection technician for the Red Cross, and while he was able to implement the new policy the day it went into effect when he collected blood from donors, he had to wait for his first day off from work to be on the other end of the donation process. Before the week was out, Hugo visited the Woodland Hills Blood, Platelet and Plasma Donation Center and after years of waiting, was able to give his own, life-saving donation.