Wednesday, June 7, 2023

“Circulate the Love” Blood Drive Hosted by American Red Cross Amid Blood Shortage


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Story by Stephanie Hall | Contributing Writer

Photos by Darwin Alberto | Photographer

The pandemic has caused the worst blood shortage in a decade. There was a 62% decrease in college and high school blood drives starting in 2020. Students made up ~25% of blood donors in 2019, compared to the ~10% during the pandemic. Middle Tennessee State University hosted a blood drive with the American Red Cross in the KUC. 

The blood drive had both student volunteers and employees like Chelsey Oliver (left) and Ashlee Banks (center).

“Our teacher is the one who gave us the resource to this to be able to do the volunteer hours. She teaches Intro to Public and Community Health,” said volunteer Ashley Banks.  

“The first or second week of class, she was telling us that over time throughout the semester, she wanted us to do volunteer hours to get more familiar with the health care field,” McKayla Parker, another volunteer, said.  

For these volunteers, they hope that they can encourage more people to donate blood during this shortage.  

“I hope we can get more walk-in appointments. It would help the blood shortage,” Parker said.  

Kyle Teague holding up some free merchandise that the donors receive.
Jennifer Carter on February 7.

For some of the donors, this isn’t their first blood drive. Jennifer Carter has given blood 25 times – a little over 3 gallons.  

“I started donating blood. One of my friends in high school was in an accident, and she passed away, but she was an organ donor. And so, I said if she can be an organ donor. The least I can do is give blood. So, I’ve given since high school,” Carter said.  

Giving blood also became personal, as her son needed a blood transfusion.  

“He was a preemie when he was born. So that kind of reenergized my need to make sure that I get in and donate blood,” Carter said.

And for those who have never given blood before, having someone like Carter can help ease nerves. 

“I would say just always do the suggestions that they make … It’s not a race. A lot of times people get in the chair, and they really want to squeeze that ball and donate fast. Don’t do that. It’s fine … just take care of yourself afterwards to make sure you stay really hydrated and have a good lunch, those types of things,” Carter said.  

Graham drawing blood.

If you donate blood, you can track where your blood goes to.

“You will get an email stating where the blood went. So, it’s kind of like an incentive to keep you donating. You get to know a little bit of where the blood is headed,” said licensed phlebotomist Shelby Graham, who has been with the Red Cross since September of 2021.  

While she believes you shouldn’t force people to donate blood, she hopes that people will realize that the blood they donate helps people.

During this blood shortage and pandemic, it’s important for people to contribute as much as possible.

While the Red Cross is facing blood shortages, they don’t take everyone’s blood. There are a lot of rules and before you can donate blood, you must take a questionnaire. It asks the obvious questions, such as if you are pregnant or taking any antibiotics or have low iron. However, there are also a lot of questions about whether if you are a man who has had sex with another man. Gay and bisexual men can’t donate blood if they have had sex with another man in the past three months. This rule does not apply to anyone else but them.  

This policy against gay and bisexual men has been around since 1986 and it stems from the AIDs epidemic. AIDS/HIV hit the queer community in early 80’s and, while it has spread to heterosexual men and women, gay and bisexual men are the only ones who face these rules.  

For members of MT Lambda, a LGBTQIA+ organization at MTSU, it is disappointing to see these stipulations.   

“There’s just a huge gap in education and understanding from what LGBTQ plus people are going through versus what (heterosexual) people are going through … it’s just even more direct because there’s no great evidence to suggest gay men are putting people at more risk than there is than a straight man, or a straight woman giving blood,” said Vice President of MT Lambda, Zofia Zagalsky. 

Of course, it’s important to remember that gay and bisexual men are not the only people who can get HIV. In fact, 2021 has had more heterosexual people to be diagnosed with HIV then gay men for the first time in 10 years. But gay and bisexual men are still discriminated against. 

“It really just would be all about education because you really need to teach people that there are no more risk to LGBTQ+ relationships versus a straight, hetero relationship. I would show (people) some of the statistics on like sexually transmitted diseases in the population, how that is not defined completely to the LGBTQ+ community,” Zagalsky said.  

Currently, the Red Cross and many other blood donation centers are partnering with LGBTQ+ community health centers to perform a study funded by the FDA. The goal of this study is to change the current policy against gay and bisexual men.

“We also have to bring in those figures to make sure that people understand that these issues are not restricted to one group or another group. These are issues that are across all groups,” Zagalsky said. 

Many organizations like the Red Cross are struggling under the pressures of COVID-19. It’s a good thing to donate blood. However, it is important to realize these homophobic regulations in place.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Ethan Pickering, email

For more news, visit, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News 

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