SAN FRANCISCO: Blood Shortage Prompts Surgery Cancellations, Protest Over Gay Donation Ban
Because of a severe blood shortage in the region, San Francisco hospitals have canceled all but emergency surgeries, announced a spokesperson for the city's main blood bank yesterday, the Contra Costa Times reports. Several open-heart surgeries were postponed, as the Blood Centers of the Pacific had only about 240 units of blood available yesterday afternoon, compared to a normal reserve of 1,000 units. Although local residents have been responding to the urgent appeals to donate, the shortage is expected to last for several more days because of the time it takes to screen the donated blood. The Red Cross, which serves hospitals in the East Bay area, has also reported a critical shortage, with only one to two days' supply of blood in reserve (McMillan, 1/7).
City Supervisor Deems Donation Rule 'Absurd'
Calling the rule that prohibits gay men who are HIV-negative and practice safe sex from donating blood "absurd," San Francisco Supervisor Mark Leno led a protest yesterday at the Blood Centers of the Pacific, the San Jose Mercury News/AP reports. Leno led a group of HIV-negative gay men to the center to donate blood, where they were refused. The gesture was a symbolic protest of the FDA regulation that bars men who have had homosexual sex since 1977 from giving blood (1/7). "We are in the middle of a blood crisis. One way to solve that is to encourage HIV-negative gay men who are sexually safe to donate," Leno said. But Nora Hirschler, president of the center, said that though she sympathized with the protest, her hands are tied. "If we don't follow the regulations, we are closed," she said (Lelchuk, San Francisco Examiner, 1/7).