DES MOINES, Iowa -- In the middle of a pandemic, Iowa's blood supply is plummeting. "Because schools have canceled and businesses have closed we've canceled a lot of drives and lost almost 1,300 donations," said Danielle West, LifeServe Blood Centers Director of PR and Marketing.
With each donation potentially saving three lives and LifeServe missing out on 1,300 donations the shutdown from COVID-19 could have already impacted 3,900 Iowa lives negatively. Danielle said, "We are the only provider of blood products for hospitals here in central Iowa so all of our hospitals only get their blood from LifeServe."
While Governor Reynolds has recommended Iowans stay home, LifeServe is making sure giving blood is safe by keeping beds at least six feet apart and adding health screening questions. "We are only taking donors by appointments. We are not taking walk-ins just so we know how many people are in the building at one time," Danielle said.
Every Iowan can make a difference but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says one group cannot. Men who have had sex with other men in the last 12 months. "It is not because of a scientific reason and not a risk related reason but simply because of who they are and who they love," said Keenan Crow, Director of Policy and Advocacy Issues for One Iowa. Since 2005, One Iowa has educated the community on LGBTQ issues. Keenan says the group supports a current petition by GLAAD to repeal the prohibition. "Can we save a life or are we going to hammer on this marginalized group of people?"
The stigma behind that marginalized group is that they may transfer HIV to other patients by giving blood. "It's much more likely that you'll be struck by lightning than receive HIV in a blood transfusion due to all these testing advancements," Keenan said.
When their country needs them many gay men remain willing but not able. "Do these restrictions make sense? From a scientific standpoint they don't. Therefore, this policy needs to be revised and fast," said Keenan.
For those able to give blood and looking for a way to help, LifeServe says now is the time. "If people have never given it a try if they are looking to give back its an easy thing to do that helps our community," Danielle said.
The petition has around 6,000 signatures and GLAAD estimates an additional 360,000 American men will likely donate if the ban is lifted.