Are We Getting Closer to Repealing the Ban on Gay Blood Donors?

Posted by Meghan Neal

After the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, GOOD’s Andrew Price wrote an article suggesting that one meaningful response to the tragedy is to donate blood. The idea resonated with several people in the GOOD community and prompted an important conversation. Many commenters pointed out that they couldn’t give blood even if they wanted to, because they're gay.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy says men who have ever had sex with another man, (at any point since 1977) are banned indefinitely from donating blood. The reason, the FDA claims, is that they’re at a higher risk of HIV and other infections.

The American Red Cross and other blood donation groups, like the community-based nonprofit America's Blood Centers, are obligated to comply with the policy, leaving no option for sexually active gay or bisexual men who want to do their part.

Many people and groups—including the Red Cross and ABC, plus several members of Congress—have advocated that the policy is outdated, discriminatory, and keeping those in need from life-saving blood transfusions.

There’s a petition on Change.org to repeal the ban. Right now it has just over 4,000 signatures; the goal is to get to 100,000. The activists claim the ban smacks of discrimination, by unfairly targeting and stereotyping gay men. (The ban doesn’t apply to lesbians or promiscuous straight people, but does affect men who are in long-term, monogamous, same-sex relationships.)

The FDA website says the policy is a public safety concern, "not based on any judgment concerning the donor’s sexual orientation." But the Red Cross and other medical groups say the health concerns aren’t scientifically warranted anymore, because all donated blood can be and is effectively tested for HIV and other diseases before it’s used.

Just last month Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who’s been fighting to end the ban for two years, urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service to rely on "the science of today not the myths of 20 years ago."

Right now the government is reviewing three health studies that could potentially give enough evidence to get the ban repealed, at least for certain groups of "low-risk" gay men, the Washington Times reported.

If the evidence backs up what many Americans are already saying, the United States might soon allow healthy gay men to donate blood, and help save lives.

You can go here to sign the petition, or here for more information on how to take action to repeal the ban.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user gabofr