Campbell mayor rejected at own blood drive

July 31, 2013 10:39:46 PM PDT
The mayor of Campbell hosted a blood drive on Wednesday, but was rejected from giving blood. He's openly gay and he is using his rejection to overturn a long-standing federal regulation that bars gay men from giving blood.

Campbell has joined a growing number of cities sponsoring blood drives this summer when donations drop because many people are on vacation. But the mayor of Campbell decided to use this drive to point out people like him can't donate because he's gay.

Todd Capurso is donating blood. He is the public works director in Campbell. His boss, Mayor Evan Low, showed up to lend support. Low also signed up to give blood, going through the lengthy health screening that protects the blood supply, but he got rejected. The Red Cross uses the term "deferred."

"After some questions, including that if you have sexual contact with another male, I was deferred," said Low.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has had rules and regulations in effect since 1983 that bar men who have had sex with men from donating blood because of the AIDS epidemic. Low is trying to get the FDA to rethink the regulation.

"It's certainly ironic that I can host a blood drive, but I can't donate blood myself. So let's use this opportunity to demonstrate that there are members in our community that want to contribute of themselves to sacrifice and save the lives of others," said Low.

Low admits that he donated blood in college by not answering the questions truthfully. The FDA said there is no penalty for doing that. No one at California's Department of Public Health was able to tell us if the state has a penalty for lying.

The FDA estimates the chances of contracting HIV/AIDS from donated blood is 1 in 2 million. The FDA also says no HIV test is 100 percent reliable.

We asked six Campbell residents what they thought. Everyone, including a nurse, indicated they had no problem with gays donating blood.

"I don't think it is an issue at all," said Campbell resident Vanessa Bonilla.

The questions are asked privately in a booth. Donors said they have no problem with them.

"I think if you're comfortable with who you are, and these are all important, you understand that they're being asked for a very important reason, all the more reason to answer honestly," said Capurso.

The FDA says it is beginning a review of its regulation. It is a process that began last year. In the meantime, Canada two months ago lifted its ban, allowing donations from gay men who have not had sex with another man for five years.


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