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High turnout at first White House LGBTQ-inclusive Pride Month blood drive

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The event highlighted recent changes by the Food and Drug Administration that allow people to donate blood regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Cwnewser

The White House Office of Public Engagement, in collaboration with the American Red Cross, held its firstLGBTQ-inclusive blood drive on Tuesday. The event, hosted in the historic Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, highlighted theBiden-Harris administration’s commitment to scientific progress and inclusivity.

Francisco Ruiz, the White House director of National AIDS Policy, addressed the participants, expressing gratitude for their contributions. “I want to first thank everyone who is donating. The lives you are saving, thank you. And for the Red Cross, for all the work that you’re doing today and around the country ... your support is super important,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz emphasized the administration’s focus on advancing science-based policies. “The Biden-Harris Administration is really steadfast and committed to advancing the science. And the change in the [Food and Drug Administration’s] guidelines is a testament to that. Making sure that we are not moving forward policies that are outdated, and that may be based on fear,” he said.

blood drive white house usa Francisco RuizCourtesy The White House

The FDA’s revised guidelines, implemented last year, eliminated time-based deferrals and specific screening questions for men who have sex with men and women who have sex with men who have sex with men. Instead, the guidelines now use individual risk-based questions to determine eligibility, ensuring the safety of the blood supply without discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The blood drive received an enthusiastic response. The drive ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with full participation. “Within 24 hours, my understanding is that all the slots are taken. So people are super excited about this,” Ruiz noted. In an interview with The Advocate, he added, “It sort of speaks to not only the commitment of the president but also the staff and administration making sure that we are contributing to the public health in this country.”

Ruiz also discussed the deferral policies for those taking medications for pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis. People who take these medications to prevent HIV aren’t eligible to donate because of the risk of false negative test reports. Ruiz stressed the effectiveness of these HIV prevention tools and the importance of maintaining the safety of the blood supply. “Folks who are taking PrEP for a reason, we want to make sure folks are moving forward with that. There are other ways that they can contribute to the health and well-being of our country, and first and foremost, keeping themselves safe as well,” he said.

Ruiz shared his experience with HIV, adding a poignant note to the event. “I myself, was tested positive six years ago,” he revealed. Despite his professional background and access to health care, Ruiz faced internalized stigma. “I carried that sort of diagnosis with me for six, seven months without sharing with anyone,” he said.

The event also spotlighted the Biden-Harris administration’s goalsoutlined in the 2022 National HIV and AIDS Strategy Implementation Plan. The plan aims to prevent new HIV infections, ensure all people are aware of their HIV status, and provide high-quality care and treatment without stigma or discrimination. It prioritizes efforts to reduce disparities and improve HIV outcomes among LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized communities, targeting specific groups, including gay andbisexual men, Black women,transgender women, and people aged 13 to 24.

“Today affirms not only the lives that we’re saving but also the lives that are lived by LGBTQ people around the country,” Ruiz said.

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Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).