Blood drive of significance held for LGBTQ+ community after recent lifting of donation bans

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center held a blood drive at the Bonham Exchange club, a safe space for LGBTQ+ community

SAN ANTONIO - – A blood drive Tuesday at the Bonham Exchange wasn’t just another ordinary blood drive. This one held special significance.

The night club has been a staple safe space for the LGBTQ+ community for over 40 years.

That’s why some community members said they felt comfortable doing something they’d never been allowed to do before - donate blood.

In May 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration put out new rules that allows gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships to donate blood without abstaining from sex.

The blood donation ban originally stemmed from concerns about HIV in the blood supply, but with new detection technology many experts and LGBTQ+ advocates have called the ban irrelevant and discriminatory for years.

“It really needed to change and I’m really excited just to see that it has,” Pride Center San Antonio Executive Director Robert Salcido said.

As a queer man, Salcido has never been allowed to donate blood.

“Just kind of that embarrassment of not being able to, or other people looking at you like, ‘Why?’” he said.

Even during what seemed like simple work situations, Salcido felt trauma because of who he authentically was.

“One time many years ago, I was doing a corporate donation and you got two hours off from your work if you donated blood. And I was excluded because I identify within the LGBTQ+ community,” Salcido said.

It’s one of the reasons Salcido has still not donated blood even though he’s allowed according to the new rules.

However, the location at the Bonham Exchange alongside his community made him ready to do it.

“I am excited, but also a little nervous. It’s kind of that same thing of, ‘Is it for real? Like, are they really going to allow me to donate blood?’” he explained.

Salcido acknowledges the fear is based in trauma, but he and his community have never let fear beat them before

“I’m ready to take advantage of the opportunity,” he said with a smile.

At the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center’s blood drive Tuesday at Bonham Exchange.

At the blood drive Tuesday, other community members who donated.........

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It’s no coincidence this is happening during Pride Month, a time to acknowledge equality and inclusion.

“I think that goes along with Pride Month of being authentic and being proud of who we are and proud of the contributions that we made to our communities. This is just another way for us to do it,” Salcido said.

It’s just one more thing that brings their community pride, and Salcido hopes the blood drives will continue past this celebratory month.

To learn more about the Bonham Exchange and its rich history, there is a KSAT Explains on that subject.

There is also a KSAT Explains on where blood goes after you donate.

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

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