Gay blood still no good

FDA regulations prevent healthy gay men from donating blood.

In the mid-1980s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, back when AIDS was thought to be the gay man’s cancer, back when President Ronald Reagan refused to acknowledge the disease, the Food and Drug Administration issued regulations that mandated that men who have sex with other men could not donate blood.

Under the current policy, a gay man who has had protected sex with only one partner can never give blood, but a heterosexual person who has engaged in unprotected sex with numerous partners can. Not only is this policy outdated and discriminatory, it is also foolish when considering the severe shortage of blood in the donor system.

This policy clings to nothing more than outdated stereotypes. It is based on the wrongheaded mentality that gay blood somehow is “dirty” or less than “normal” heterosexual blood. It wrongly insinuates that all gay men have AIDS. According to a Queer & Allied Activism petition, gay and bisexual men are much more likely to have protected sex than heterosexual men, and gay men no longer are the fastest growing AIDS population, which moves one to question the legitimacy of this policy. Furthermore, all donated blood is thoroughly screened for the HIV antibody.

Gays’ blood is not the only category of blood with a permanent ban. Under the policy, homosexuality is placed in the same class as those who have prostituted and those with a history of intravenous drug use. People with medical conditions such as cancer and heart disease are also permanently banned from donating. There is clear inequity here.

Still, many argue that prohibiting gay men from donating blood is simply cold, hard science. They say that because gay men are a high-risk population everything should be done to reduce the risk of possible HIV infection, including permanent exclusion. Yet, at a recent FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee meeting, the committee admitted the policy is discriminatory, lacked firm foundation in science and should be changed.

It absolutely must change and would be a great step toward reducing the bad blood between society and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.