Connect with us

District of Columbia

Local gay couple among first to donate blood under new FDA policy

Revised rules ease restrictions for gay, bi men

Published

on

Doug Anderson, 51, and Dan Bennett, 56, were among the first gay people to donate blood after the FDA changed the rules earlier this year.

A gay couple from Reston, Va., became one of the first gay or bisexual men in the D.C. area to donate blood on Aug. 7, on the first day that the American Red Cross implemented the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s new guidelines for blood donor eligibility.

The new guidelines, approved by the FDA on May 11, ease longstanding restrictions on blood donations by gay and bisexual men that had effectively prevented people from donating blood based on their sexual orientation.

The two men, Doug Anderson, 51, a longtime Red Cross employee, and Dan Bennett, 56, a senior director for the Medallia personnel management and software company, said they were delighted to finally become eligible to donate blood.

“There’s so much of a need for blood,” Anderson told the Washington Blade. “So, it’s really nice to be included so we can also give back to this life-saving mission,” he said.

“I was able to give blood previously and it’s been many, many years since I’ve been able to give,” Bennett said. “This is something that I feel very proud to be able to do and to represent our community.”

The previous FDA policy that has just been replaced required men who have sex with men [MSM] to abstain from sex for three months before they would be eligible to donate blood.

The new policy, according to a statement released by the FDA in May, eliminates time-based deferrals for donating blood and screening questions specific to men who have sex with men and women who have sex with MSM.

The FDA statement says the new policy puts in place a screening process that asks all prospective donors regardless of their sexual orientation to answer a series of individual, risk-based questions to determine their eligibility for blood donation.

“The implementation of these recommendations will represent a significant milestone for the agency and the LGBTQI+ community,” the statement quotes Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, as saying.

But the FDA’s blood donor policy change also puts in place restrictions based on certain sexual activity that applies to everyone, not just gay or bisexual men.

“All prospective donors who report having a new sexual partner, or more than one sexual partner in the past three months, and anal sex in the past three months, would be deferred to reduce the likelihood of donations by individuals with new or recent HIV infection,” the statement says.

“Additionally, under these final recommendations, those taking medication to treat or prevent HIV infection (e.g., antiretroviral therapy (ART), pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), will be deferred” from donating blood, the statement continues.

“Though these antiretroviral drugs are safe, effective, and an important public health tool, the available data demonstrate that their use may delay detection of HIV by currently licensed screening tests for blood donations, which may potentially give false negative results,” it says.

An FDA spokesperson said the deferral will be for three months after someone discontinues the PrEP and PEP medications and three months after someone who had engaged in anal sex with a new or more than one sex partner. All donors must also have a negative test result for HIV infection.   

Anderson and Bennett said a diverse group of people joined them in turning out to donate blood on Aug. 7 at the Red Cross headquarters building at 430 17th St., N.W., near the White House.

“When the Red Cross announced it would be the first to implement that new policy, I talked to my husband Dan about it,” Anderson said. “And I kind of teased him. I said I think it’s ‘bring your husband to work day.”

Anderson noted that he works at the D.C. Red Cross headquarters building where blood donation drives are often held and where the building was host to the blood donations of Aug. 7.

“And I wondered if he would come with me on the very first day of eligibility to donate blood together, because it was something I didn’t think we would ever see in our lifetime,” he said.

Bennett enthusiastically agreed to join his husband in donating blood on that day. He noted that Red Cross officials arranged for a crew to capture some of those, including he and his husband, on video as they donated blood. The video is part of an effort to inform the public that people who were ineligible to give blood can now do so.

 “So, to be part of this, to be able to get that message out there and awareness – it’s really important,” he told the Blade. “So, I believe this will educate people more and drive them out to want to give blood and to participate.”

A New Era in Blood Donation from American Red Cross on Vimeo.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

District of Columbia

New complaint form to help D.C. LGBTQ seniors facing discrimination

Office of Human Rights steps up protections for those in long-term care

Published

on

OHR’s Care for Seniors program supports LGBTQ seniors and seniors living with HIV facing discrimination.

The D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR) announced on July 22 that it is launching new “user-friendly” intake forms designed to facilitate and simplify the filing of discrimination complaints by seniors, including LGBTQ seniors, who encounter discrimination in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.

“The forms simplify the complaint filing process, making it easier for residents to better access support and understand their rights” at long term care facilities, according to a statement released by OHR. The statement provides a link to access the new intake forms online.

“This initiative is part of OHR’s Care for Seniors program, which supports LGBTQ seniors and seniors living with HIV facing discrimination in such facilities,” the statement continues. “The form addresses concerns related to sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, HIV status, and other prohibited bases of discrimination, streamlining the reporting process and enabling seniors to file claims directly through OHR’s website,” it states.

In addition to the improved intake form for seniors filing discrimination complaints, the OHR announcement says it is also releasing new forms for filing complaints under the D.C. Universal Paid Family Leave Amendment Act, which requires employers in the city to provide 12 weeks of paid leave benefits for parental, family, or medical reasons to eligible employees.

“The form allows individuals to file complaints if they believe their employer has interfered with their right to these benefits or retaliated against them for requesting, applying for, or using paid leave” in violation of the law in question, according to the statement.  

OHR officials have pointed out that D.C. stepped up its protections for LGBTQ seniors through the passage by the D.C. Council of the Care for LGBTQ Seniors and Seniors with HIV Amendment Act of 2020. Among other things, the law calls for OHR certified trainers to “provide specialized information for staff in long-term care facilities, specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of LGBTQ+ seniors and seniors with HIV in long-term care facilities,” OHR states in its website.

“We prioritize safeguarding the new rights and legal protections outlined in the Act, which includes a posted notice of ‘Non-Discrimination’ aiming to ensure that participating facilities actively contribute to creating secure and inclusive environments for all residents,” the OHR website statement concludes.

The questionnaire and complaint form for LGBTQ seniors facing discrimination in long-term care facilities can be accessed at ohr.dc.gov.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

Nonprofit D.C. groups invited to apply for anti-LGBTQ violence grants

$700,000 available for FY 2025 ‘VPART’ program

Published

on

LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs held a conference on July 18 to inform interested officials with local nonprofit community-based organizations that provide services to the LGBTQ community how best to apply for city grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 as part of the city’s Violence Prevention and Response Team program, known as VPART.

Information released by the program states that its mission is to “address, reduce, and prevent crime within and against the LGBT community” by “creating a strong partnership between the community and the government which enables us to focus on coordinating a community response to violence.” 

Addressing hate-bias crimes targeting the LGBTQ community are among the program’s high priority objectives, information released by the program says.

Presentations on how best to apply for the VPART grants and what the requirements are for obtaining them were given by LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and the office’s grants administrator, George Garcia. The two said the deadline for submitting grant applications for the program is Aug. 5. Organizations whose applications are approved will receive the grant funds they are approved for on Oct. 30, which is the start of fiscal year 2025.

Garcia said a total of $700,000 has been allocated to fund the VPART grants, the number of which will depend on how many applications are received.  

Garcia said that among the key components of the VPART program are Victim Response Services, Case Management, Legal Services, Trauma Informed Mental Health Services, and Cultural Humility Training that he said are aimed, among other things,  to support LGBTQ victims of violent crime.

One of the organizations that has received VPART grants in past years, and that is expected to apply again this year is the D.C. LGBTQ Community Center.

 “Along with offering trauma-informed therapy and casework, the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center directly supports LGBTQ+ survivors with our mental health services, shelter assistance, and other resources victims of violence may need,” the LGBTQ Center says in a statement. “If you are LGBTQ+ and are a victim of violence, or know someone who is, you can refer them to the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center and we will make sure they are supported and connected to the resources they need,” the statement says.

The conference was held at the Reeves Center municipal building where the LGBTQ Affairs office and other city agencies as well as the LGBTQ Community Center are located at 2000 14th St., N.W. About a dozen people attended the conference in person and another 14 attended virtually through Zoom, according to Bowles.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

Trans woman announces candidacy for ANC race in Columbia Heights

D.C. government official to challenge gay incumbent

Published

on

Vida Rangel (Photo by Praddy Banerjee/@praddyban)

Vida Rangel, a transgender woman who currently serves as Director of Operations in the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments, has announced her candidacy for an Advisory Neighborhood Commission seat in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood

In a statement released on July 11, Rangel said she is running for the ANC single member district seat of 1A10, which is currently held by first-term incumbent Billy Easley, who identifies as a gay man.

“I’m running a groundbreaking campaign as the first trans person of color who would be elected in the District of Columbia,” Rangel said in the statement. “Representation matters.”

Rangel’s statement says in her current city government job she is the ‘highest-ranking openly transgender official in D.C. government history.” If elected to the ANC, she said she would focus, among other things, on language access for Spanish speaking residents, affordable housing, and reliable and accessible public transportation.

“As an autistic, queer, nonbinary, transgender Latina woman, Rangel’s commitment to public service and community is shaped by her lived experience,” her campaign statement says. “Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast, Vida was raised by working parents and grandparents, along with her six siblings. She saw firsthand how social services and support could counterbalance devastating situations like a medical emergency, an unexpected bill, or even a misfiled form,” the statement says.

“My experiences ignited a fire, propelling me to fight for the rights of all communities, whether it be nondiscrimination protections, housing justice, access to education, worker’s rights, or voting rights,” she says in the statement.

Rengel could not immediately be reached for comment on whether she disagrees with any of the positions or actions taken by incumbent commissioner Easley.

Billy Easley (Photo courtesy of Easley)

In his successful campaign for the ANC 1A10 seat in the city’s 2022 election Easley stated in an online statement  “Together, we can make our streets safer and our community stronger. This neighborhood is where my husband and I met, it is where we fell in love, and it’s where we’ve lived for the last ten years.”

Easley told the Washington Blade in a July 19 phone interview that he has been endorsed in his re-election campaign by Ward 1 D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau, which Easley said was a recognition of his accomplishments during his first term in office.

“In the last election I knocked on every door, and I’m going to do that again because it’s really important to me to connect with the voters and make sure that they’re being represented and to be an advocate for them,” he said. “Vida is a great person,” he added. “I have nothing bad to say about her,” he said.

“But I have a record of accomplishment and I’m going to be running on that,” he told the Blade. “And I’m going to be running on making sure that our residents’ voices are heard. So, I’m ready to go.”

He said his accomplishments in his first term in office include contacting each of the residents in his district who the city’s water department said may have lead pipes and  informing them how to get the pipes replaced through a free D.C. program; his appointment by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to her Juvenile Justice Advisory Group; organizing a Public Safety Summit with D.C. police and other city officials to address the issue of crime; and “successfully advocating” for more city funding for increased trash pick-up services in the neighborhood.

Easley points out that besides him, at least three other members of the 10-member ANC 1A10 identify as gay men.

Vincent Slatt, who serves as chair of the D.C. ANC Rainbow Caucus, said he believes between three and four-dozen ANC commissioners citywide are members of the LGBTQ community. 

“This is probably not the first time that two LGBTQ people have run against each other for an ANC seat,” Slatt told the Blade in a statement. “However, to have two out LGBTQ candidates of color in one race certainly seems like a milestone,” he said. “Recently, we have had two out trans ANCs. To have a third out trans candidate is a sign of how much further along our city is than other places in the country,” Slatt said. “Not fully enough, but on the path forward.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular