Lifting an outdated ban that restricts gay men from donating blood is being considered by the Food and Drug Administration and could potentially save millions of lives.
The 31-year-old policy was created to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS in response to the growing AIDS crisis in the ’80s. This is an outdated policy that diminishes the rights of gay men.
But, science has advanced significantly since the beginning days of AIDS crisis and it is time for gay men to start having equal rights to donate blood.
An FDA advisory panel met Nov. 2 to take a second look at its policy that prohibits gay men from donating blood. Although the panel did not take an official vote, most members leaned toward lifting the ban in the future.
It is discrimination to not allow gay men to donate blood strictly based on their sexuality.
Blood donation requires the completion of a health questionnaire, a process that assumes donors are practicing full disclosure, but] tests can still be done to detect the presence of HIV/AIDS before the donation process.
It is understandable that the FDA wants to ensure that only uninfected blood is being used for donations, but this should not out any group of people or make someone feel less acceptable than another especially based on one’s sexual preference.
Every blood donor is given a mini-physical before donating. This physical and testing the blood for HIV antibodies, it will help ensure that only uninfected blood is being used for donations.
The FDA is considering easing, but not lifting the ban. It has suggested a deferral policy that would allow gay men to give blood only if they’ve been abstinent for one year prior.
Although this is a step in the right direction, it is a ridiculous expectation for anyone over the age of 18. I’m sure couples involved in an intimate relationship have sex more than once a year.
Many other countries including Mexico, Italy and Spain have completely lifted bans prohibiting gay men donating blood. Other countries have enacted a “deferral period,” meaning someone can donate if they have not had sex within a certain period of time, similar to what the FDA is trying to do.
Gay activists say the lifetime ban is prejudiced and promotes negative stereotypes against homosexual men. The ban not only discriminates, it also shows the lack of knowledge about HIV and AIDS within the medical community and attaches a stigma to gay men.
The risk of contracting HIV from a blood transfusion is currently less than one in 2 million, according to the Red Cross website.
Understanding that there is a constant need for blood, it doesn’t make sense to ban donations from an entire segment of the population. More than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day, according to the Red Cross website.
Eliminating the ban could bring in more than 615,000 pints of blood annually according to Medical Daily’s website. This amount of blood can potentially save more than a million lives each year.
Identifying oneself as gay should not restrict a potential hero who might save a life by donating blood.