Gay men left out of Valley-wide blood drive

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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - It's city versus city this month in who can donate the most blood.  This friendly competition aims to help replenish the Valley's blood supply during the typically slow summer months.  but a large portion of the Valley's population is not allowed to donate whether they want to or not. 

"Blood is one of those things we can not manufacture any other way, we need people to come out and actually donate blood," said Desert Blood Services nurse John Rock.

It's called the gift of life for a reason, but it's a gift gay man can not give.

"Lots of people can't give blood, but this is the only group that is discriminated against because they are someone," said George Zander, equal right advocate.  

The FDA says men who have had sex with men anytime since 1977 can not donate because of the risk of transfusing HIV and AIDS.

"I was there I know about the panic and I know people were frightened and scared especially in the medical community, it was horrible horrible times but to hold on to that since 1982 and not change that is horrible," said Zander. 

Zander, a gay man himself, says the City of Palm Springs should not back an event that discriminates.

"In a progressive city like Palm Springs it's inexcusable to forget, but people forget. This is a reminder that these things still exist," said Zander.

Palm Springs says it's providing a place for this year's blood drive, but no city money will be used.

"We want to find that balance, we encourage everyone to donate blood and we also think it would be a good idea if that older antiquated rule was changed," said Palm Springs city manger David Ready.  "There is a large gay population in palm springs  we think in today's world they certainly can give blood along with everyone else."

In the mean time, the Coachella Valley still needs blood.  That's why Zander is asking anybody who can't donate to recruit one or two of their friends to donate on their behalf. 

"I have already found two people that I have recruited to go donate who can," said Zander.

"We need to look at our community to get that blood supply going," said Rock.

As for next year, Palm Springs still plans to participate.

"We are going to do this again next year, but we hope that rule will be modified by next year," said Ready.

"We've got to do it, but the fact that a huge population of this town can not give blood simply because of who they are. It's wrong," said Zander. 

The Palm Springs blood drive is Thursday from noon to 6 at the police station.  Expect to spend about 45 minutes to an hour to donate.

Nine Cities Blood Drive Challenge schedule:

Indian Wells
Tues., July 1 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Indian Wells Golf Club, Celebrity Ballroom, 44500 Indian Wells Lane

Thurs., July 10 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Indio Teen Center, 81678 Avenue 46

Rancho Mirage
Wed., July 16 from 12 to 6 p.m.
City Hall, 69-825 Highway 111

Palm Desert
Sat., July 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Palm Desert High School Gym, 74910 Aztec Rd.

La Quinta
Wed., July 23 from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Embassy Suites, 50777 Santa Rosa Plaza

Palm Springs
Thurs., July 24 from 12 to 6 p.m.
Police Department, 200 S. Civic Drive

Wed., July 30 from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Senior Center, 1540 Seventh St.

Cathedral City
Thurs., July 31 from 12 to 6 p.m.
Desert Princess Resort, 67967 Vista Chino

Desert Hot Springs
Fri., Aug 1 from 1 to 7 p.m.
Desert Wellness Center, 11570 Cholla Drive 

For more information about donating blood click here.

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