Update: Since this article was published, the FDA announced they would lift the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood, instead only prohibiting a man who's had sex with another man in last 12 months from making a blood donation.
This policy was first put in place by the FDA in 1983, at the height of the AIDS scare. Back then, we didn't know what was happening, and gay men seemed to be the main population displaying symptoms of HIV, so I can understand how this policy came about. But it's 2014. Isn't it time to admit we know better now?
For a little while, it looked like this would finally be overturned (a similar lifetime ban was lifted in the U.K. in September 2011). A few weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration's Blood Products Advisory Committee met to discuss lifting the lifetime blood donation ban on men who have had sex with another man (even once, even with a condom).
My hopeful heart soared with the potential that my gay male friends would finally be able to donate blood if they chose to. Unfortunately the panel came back endorsing the gay blood ban, according to Slate. And that's when my blood, so to speak, boiled.
I cannot for the life of me understand the FDA's decision, especially considering that about 4.2 million people (well, men) would be eligible to be blood donors. Why would they deny someone potentially lifesaving blood just because it came from a man who does not exclusively — and maybe not at all — sleep with women? When 41,000 blood donations are needed every day, it shouldn't matter who the blood is coming from. A gay man's blood is not going to be any different from a straight man's blood. The person getting the donated blood isn't going to spontaneously turn gay, and if they're worried about HIV/AIDS (and I admit that statistically gay and bisexual men are the most affected), aren't they testing the blood anyway?
I've gotten into fights with friends over this subject, but I refuse to back down. So long as this lifetime ban on gay men donating blood stands, the FDA can't have my blood either.
Maybe I'm being selfish by denying a patient who really needs it, someone who had nothing to do with the FDA decision, but that's how I feel.
At the end of the day, donating blood is a choice. Being gay isn't. Period.
When a friend recently got on my case about the fact that I refuse to donate blood and how it's hurting patients, I proposed a solution: If every family member and friend of anyone who has ever had to receive a blood donation stood up to the FDA and told them what a ridiculous policy this was, then maybe things would change.
Maybe the FDA needs to hear it over and over again from the people who are benefiting from blood donations and simultaneously suffering because there isn't enough blood. Whatever their thinking with this policy is, I think it is ridiculous. And I refuse to participate in their stupidity.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the position or policies of SheKnows Media.
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