Jul 30, 2014

Gay and Bisexual Men vs the FDA: Let Us Donate Blood

  As most people know, there is a ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. The ban on blood donation from gay and bisexual men was put into effect by the FDA in 1983. There is a petition on the White House’s website to strike down a decades-old, extremely outdated ban. The deadline for signatures is July 31, 2014. The ban was placed during the time when HIV/AIDS became a prevalent illness in the country and tests for diagnosis of HIV/AIDS didn’t exist. Before AIDS was known as AIDS, it was called GRID, or gay-related immunodeficiency disease. Gay men were thought to be the origin of the disease in the United States and the primary cause of it, so in order to prevent further spread, gay men were banned from donating blood.
                On July 11, 2014, the second National Gay Blood Drive took place in 61 cities across the country. Gay men showed up to donation centers with and ally or proxy, a straight friend or family member that would donate in their place. Some of the gay men filled out the paperwork only to be denied. They did this so that the organizers could send the paperwork, along with postcards written by the men on why they want to donate blood, to the FDA to show the number of gay men willing to donate if they could. It’s surprising and heartbreaking to see that there’s a huge shortage and that the amount of gay and bisexual men that want to donate could majorly offset the shortage.
                The AMA (American Medical Association) voted to
end the ban last year after recognizing the new techniques for screening donated blood for HIV/AIDS. Dr. William Kobler, an AMA board member, made a statement after the vote saying, “The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science. This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.” The FDA’s spokesperson was asked by TIME if the FDA would lift the ban on donations, and they said that they were willing to consider changing its policy, but only if available data showed that lifting the ban provided no additional risk to people receiving donated blood.  The FDA also responded with a separate e-mail, “Although scientific evidence has not yet demonstrated that blood donated by MSM (men that have sex with men) or a subgroup of these potential donors does not have a substantially increased rate of HIV infection compared to currently accepted blood donors, the FDA remains willing to consider new approaches to donor screening and testing.”
                Gay and bisexual men should be allowed to donate blood. Just because the ban has been in place, doesn’t mean it should remain in place. Change happens for a reason. The rules in place are archaic and improvements have been made so people won’t receive blood from HIV positive people. There’s no reason now to not let people save lives if they wish to.
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