There is a blood shortage throughout the United States as patients desperately wait for blood and bone marrow donations. Blood donations save lives and the circumstances in which they are needed often require immediate attention.
There are many factors that need to be considered before a suitable donor can be found—the most crucial being blood type compatibility. Donors of rare blood types are increasingly difficult to find, prolonging the search and decreasing the chance of patient survival.
What if a gay man is willing to donate blood?
In response to the AIDS crisis the Food and Drug Administration has prohibited MSM (men who have sex with men) blood donations since 1977. The provision argues that MSM are at higher risk of contracting and transmitting HIV and hepatitis, posing a health risk to potential blood recipients. However, this policy stigmatises all gay men, regardless of their status, as public health risks. Under this discriminatory measure even HIV negative and otherwise healthy gay men cannot donate blood.
Why can't patients choose if they want a gay donor or not?
Unfortunately, donor information is not disclosed to patients are therefore they are not informed of viable options from potential gay donors. and does not have the opportunity to decide if they are willing to accept the donation. The FDA policy neglects the patient's right to choose.
Is the policy based on medical fact or homophobia?
The Case Against the Ban: Banning Gay Donors is Prejudice
Gay advocate Peter Tatchell states that the ban on gay blood donors "is based on the assumption that all homosexual and bisexual men are 'high risk' for HIV" and that the "policy seems to reflect homophobic prejudices, not medical facts."
Others argue that 1977, the date of exclusion, proves the homophobic nature of the policy. The quality and timeliness of HIV and AIDS evaluations has improved dramatically since, producing results within days or even minutes. Yet, the policy has not been adjusted to reflect contemporary health conditions and preventative measures. For instance, since most blood transfusions require weeks of preparation there is ample time to re-test as a precaution. In addition, the FDA gay blood ban virtually ignores the health risk posed by heterosexual donors who've been exposed to HIV or AIDS.
The Case for the Ban: Banning Gay Donors Protects the Health of Recipients
The following is the FDA's response taken from their website:
"In 1983, FDA recommended donor-screening procedures to exclude individuals at increased risk for transmitting Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). These recommendations have been updated periodically since then. The exclusion of potential donors based on certain sexual histories has been discussed often, and in-depth, by FDA's Blood Products Advisory Committee (BPAC). This panel of non-FDA independent experts continues to recommend the deferral of men who have sex with other men and their recent partners. This issue was discussed at the December 11-12, 1997, BPAC meeting. The committee voted to reconsider the current recommendations for deferral of men who have had sex with other men. However, at that time the committee did not specify what the specific recommendations should be. Data on the incidence and prevalence of HIV and other viruses in men who have had sex with other men and data on HIV positive blood donors were presented at the November 23, 1998, FDA Workshop on Blood Donor Suitability..."