There are 21 possible reasons why a would-be donor can be ineligible to donate blood, ranging from health issues to travel history, according to American Red Cross data.
Approximately 30 percent of Penn State students and State College residents who come into campus blood drives aren’t able to donate blood, said Melissa Hubley, president of the Penn State Student Red Cross Club.
Among these donors, there are a number of female donors who aren’t able to donate because of low iron levels, Hubley (senior-microbiology) said. There are students who have tattoos or have traveled to certain countries who aren’t able to donate, she said.
“The whole goal is to have a safe blood donation and reduce the risk of recipients from getting sick,” Hubley said. “That is why you see these restrictions.”
Often, overcoming restrictions on a donation can come down to educating donors on how to prepare for donation, said Wendi Keeler, club adviser of the Student Red Cross Club.
For instance, taking regular multivitamins and eating healthy food leading up to the blood drive can solve the low iron issue, she said.
Some donors don’t pass the physical because they have a misconception that they need to fast before donating blood, Keeler said.
“We always stress donors to have a good meal and stay well-hydrated before they donate,” Keeler said. “It is important for first-time donors to have a good experience so they come back again to donate.”
Another more controversial restriction on donors is the ban on gay men from donating blood.
The Food and Drug Administration states that males who have had sex with another male are subject to a lifetime ban on donating blood, Keeler said.
This issue has led to protests by the LGBTA community at Penn State during recent blood drives on campus, Donald Challstrom (senior-information, sciences and technology) said.
“It doesn’t make sense that a straight man can have sex with a prostitute and donate blood the next year, while a sexually active gay man is permanently banned by the FDA from giving blood,” Challstrom said.
Challstrom said the ban is another reminder that the gay community is considered “lower in society.” Science has come a long way in detecting HIV in blood, and the laws need to catch up, he said.
Marianne Spampinato, communications manager for the American Red Cross, said her organization doesn’t agree with the ban.
“We believe the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is unwarranted, and donor deferral criteria should be modified and made comparable with criteria for other groups at increased risk for sexual transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections,” she wrote in an email.