John M. Becker

Committee Recommends Partial Lift of Gay Blood Ban

Filed By John M. Becker | November 13, 2014 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: blood donations, FDA, gay blood ban, HIV/AIDS, HRC

gay-blood.jpgIt looks like we may soon see a relaxing of the unscientific, outdated, and odiously discriminatory gay and bisexual blood ban, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports:

A U.S. advisory panel recommended for the first time that the 31-year ban preventing gay and bisexual men from donating blood should be partially ended, placing the nation's policy in line with other countries.

Men who had sex with men anytime since 1977 are barred from giving blood in the U.S., a policy that dates back to 1983 because of concern that the AIDS virus could be transmitted through blood transfusions. Groups like the American Red Cross say that risk is infinitesimal in many cases, not enough to justify a full ban that prevents much-needed donations.

Doctors and blood-donation advocates who advise the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services voted 16-2 today to suggest that men who have had sex with men should be able to give blood after being abstinent for one year. Their recommendation will be considered by a group of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration in a Dec. 2 meeting. While the FDA doesn't have to follow either panel's advice, their recommendations are considered influential.

While this would definitely be a major step in the right direction, the Human Rights Campaign correctly points out that the gay and bisexual blood ban needs to be junked:

"This recommendation -- although nominally better than the existing policy -- falls far short because it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men, preventing them from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation," said David Stacy, HRC's Government Affairs Director. "The current policy, adopted in the earliest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the new recommendation are both simply wrong and can no longer be justified in light of scientific research and updated blood screening technology. It's far past time for this stigma to end."

Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the ACLU, adds:

"Criteria for being a blood donor should be based on science, not discriminatory stereotypes and assumptions. It is promising to see that the U.S. appears poised to move away from the current lifetime ban that prevents gay and bisexual men from donating blood. However, the proposed one-year deferral will prevent two men who maintain a committed, monogamous relationship from ever donating blood. This proposed policy does not distinguish between high risk and safer sex practices."

Hear, hear.

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