Discrimination in blood donations

The ban on blood donations from gay men should be amended to increase supply.

Connor Nikolic

I’ve donated blood regularly since I turned 18, giving once or twice each year. Every time I’ve donated, one of the many queries the questionnaire asked me beforehand was, “[Have you] had sexual contact with another male, even once?”

Since the AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s, the United States Food and Drug Administration banned men who have had sex with other men from donating blood. As a result, many potential donors have been incapable of providing this contribution to society.

An advisory board to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services voted conclusively last week that men who have had sex with men should be able to give blood after being abstinent for one year. This period would eliminate the chance of false-negative HIV tests. Although the FDA has the final say in this decision, it will probably take into account the group’s advice.

With the Red Cross regularly reporting blood shortages, the nation’s ill could benefit greatly from an additional source of blood. Given that science has proven their blood to be safe, the FDA must implement a plan for gay men to become donors.

The United Kingdom and Canada have already revised their policies to allow all men to donate, provided they have not had sex with another man in one year or five years, respectively.

Based on those nations’ successes, I would expect the U.S. to move to a model like theirs in the near future. As more research improves early HIV-detection rates, I also hope that the barriers preventing gay men from donating blood continue to disappear.