FDA Ban Stops Blood Drives on Campus, “We Would Like to See Change”



It is not too late to save a life. It is not too late to give blood. But you can’t do it on Southern Oregon University’s campus. 

One pint of blood can save up to three lives, according to statistics on the Red Cross website. With the decrease in donations during the winter months, and the ever present need for blood, Red Cross officials say there is a severe deficit.

Ben Barnes, a sophomore and honors college student, sees that deficit and aims to eliminate it. “The need for blood is high, but less people donate than they have in the past,” he explains, “but the need is still high. This leads to shortages.” Barnes says he used to donate blood in high school. The experience has prompted him to host a blood drive in Ashland, within blocks of Southern Oregon University, “I felt like it would be a good way to help folks out.”

Barnes wishes he could have one on campus but Southern Oregon University has not allowed blood drives on campus in the last few years due to what many believe is a discriminatory policy dictated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which oversees blood drives. The FDA at one time did not allow gay men to contribute blood claiming a greater chance of spreading HIV/AIDS. 

In 1983, the FDA created restrictions for blood donations in the early stages of the AIDS epidemic. At the time, little was known about the disease and how it spread. They created a law that any man who had had sexual intercourse with another man at any point in their life could not donate blood. In December of 2015, the FDA revised that law. Instead of a lifetime ban, they made it a 12-month ban. Still, it restricts any sexually active gay man from contributing blood. It’s a fact that hampers Barnes efforts to get blood donors and one which he wishes could be revised, “It (the ban) is the number 1 reason blood drives are not allowed on campus,” Ben says. He explains that keeping groups like the Red cross off campus does nothing to eliminate the ban and may prevent the Red Cross from getting the blood it needs, “I want students to know that it is not the Red Cross’ ban. It is an FDA policy that the Red Cross is required to follow. SOU has a lot of eligible blood donors. If blood drives were allowed on campus, there would be a massive increase in student donations.”

Christina Martin, Territory Representative of the Pacific Northwest at the Red Cross, says she’d like to see the ban lifted entirely, “We would like to see change in the laws,” she urges, “Write to your congressmen and women. College students are the ones that can make the change in legislation.”

Martin agrees that university campuses need to work for change while also allowing blood drives, “I understand the reason why it is an issue, but I think there needs to be an effort to change it.”  Both Martin and Barnes say  the policy is now archaic.

Ben concludes earnestly “I hope that SOU finds it reasonable to hold blood drives on campus. It could save lives.”

***A blood drive organized by Barnes just concluded. But if you would like to organize an effort or give blood, contact Christina Martin at 541-842-4707 to schedule an appointment.