An FDA Committee today will consider softening the nation's ban on gay men giving blood. But is it enough?
Since 1977 the nation has banned gay men from donating blood, despite the fact that lifting the ban could "help save the lives of more than 1.8 million people," according to a Williams Institute study.
Last month, the FDA took the first step in removing – or at least, modifying – the ban, when the Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood & Tissue Safety & Availability voted to drop the ban for any man who have not had sex with another man in at least a year.
Today, a committee will meet again to consider that proposal.
The American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, and America’s Blood Centers, in a joint statement last month agreed the recommendation is "consistent" with their position.
"A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that if gay men were allowed to donate blood like other members of the public, 360,600 men would come forward to give blood, adding an extra 615,300 pints of blood available for infusions every year. But those numbers drop dramatically under the one-year abstinence requirement, slipping to 185,800 new donors and just 317,000 pints of blood," Mother Jones reports today.
"The policies that are in place, the lifetime ban, perpetuates negative stereotypes and stigma," says Ryan James Yezak, founder of the National Gay Blood Drive. "It assumes that all gay and bisexual men are likely to have HIV and therefore must be blanket banned. And that's just not necessary in this day and age when they have the testing and other countries have moved to deferral time period."
But Yezak, MJ suggests, is willing to support this move as a good first step.
The anti-gay right disagrees.
"First of all, HIV rates and sexually transmitted diseases are rising among homosexual-practicing men," LaBarbera told AFA's One News Now. "So why would we be talking about softening the blood ban at a time when [STDs] are on the rise among men who have sex with men?"
But the ACLU notes 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... Criteria for being a blood donor should be based on science, not discriminatory stereotypes and assumptions.”
Or anti-gay fear-mongering.
Image via Wikimedia