The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is concerned about the health and safety of donor recipients. At least that's what FDA spokesman Eleanor Nicoll says about the FDA's ban on gay sperm donors unless they have been celibate for five years. A similar argument was used to justify banning gay blood donors in 1985. Even considering high HIV transmission rate among gay man, the FDA still does not address the growing rates of HIV in heterosexual men. So, is the FDA ban on gay sperm as part of the FDA Eligibility Determination for Donors of Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products, based on discrimination or health and safety?
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Is the ban warranted?
In an Associated Press report, the FDA stated that it "felt the broader exclusion was prudent even if it affected gay men who practice safe sex." The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) agrees. "All of the tissue rules are issued under FDA's authority to make and enforce regulations necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases."
But, what if a donor clinic like Alameda-based Rainbow Flag Health Services takes the necessary precautions against the spread of disease? Rainbow Flag Health Services meets and exceeds ASRM guidelines for sample testing. Samples are quarantined for a minimum of 6 months and then retested for HIV 1& 2, HTLV 1 & 2, Hepatitis B & C and Syphilis before semen is released for insemination. With such diligence, its likely that any infected sample from any man would be detected.
Lambda Legal, one of the largest watchdogs of gay rights, released the following statement concerning the FDA ban:
"The federal government issued recommendations today that look like they were written in 1982, not 2004. There is absolutely nothing about this proposal that's based on science or medicine -- this is a policy based on bigotry. The government's recommendations are discriminatory and defy common sense. It's completely illogical to say that a gay monogamous man who practiced safe sex four years ago cannot be a sperm donor, but a heterosexual man who had high-risk unprotected sex 14 months ago can donate his sperm. There are already procedures in place to ensure that donated sperm is safe, no matter who donated it. HIV affects every part of our nation's population, and the F.D.A. needs to realize that fact and stop treating gay men as the only people who contract HIV."
So, where does it stand?
FDA policy do not serve as law, but medical professionals and clinics use them as guidelines for care. The FDA does not prohibit a patient from requesting and using sperm donated from a gay man, but FDA policy does not prevent clinics from turning away gay donors.