Should ban on gay men’s blood donations be lifted?

Update: In June, The Health and Human Services Department’s Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability declined to change the current ban on gay men donating blood, but did recommend that current policies be reviewed, noting that current policy may permits potentially high-risk blood donations while preventing low-risk donations. The panel ultimately concluded that existing research isn’t adequate to justify lifting the ban, and more research is needed on this controversial issue.

According to CNN, the Federal Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability will consider the controversial issue of blood donations from gay men. In June, this committee will makes recommendations to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA. Current FDA rules prohibit men who have had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood. The rules came about during the initial outbreak of AIDS in the early 1980’s, when tests used at the time were unable to screen for HIV-positive blood. The FDA instituted the ban in order to protect the safety of the blood supply.

Gay men currently face a lifetime ban on donating blood. Photo: CURTIS COMPTON/ccompton@ajc.com

Gay men currently face a lifetime ban on donating blood.

Fast forward to the present day, when medical technology allows for more stringent testing of the country’s blood supply, including screening for HIV antibodies, which makes the risk of infection very small. However, those who feel the ban should stay in place point to a “window period” of about two weeks after an individual becomes infected with HIV where the virus is undetectable by current testing methods.

Other people who engage in what is considered “high-risk” behaviors are also banned from donating blood, though they do not necessarily face a lifetime ban like gay men. For example, people who engage in sexual activity with prostitutes or get a tattoo are prohibited from donating blood for a year. Those who support easing the restrictions for gay men point to the unfairness of such screening practices. However, Dr. Jay Brooks, professor of pathology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio states that the blood donation rules were based upon data that indicates “the risk of HIV is much lower in heterosexuals.” (For more data on this issue, refer to the FDA’s FAQ which discusses the medical reasons behind the ban.)

36 comments Add your comment

DLT

May 27th, 2010
11:33 am

Discrimination is not even an issue. That is irrelevant! Anyone that is participating in high risk sexual behaviors should not be allowed to donate blood. Where is a persons’ moral values if one knows that they are engaging in such activity; why would one even want to donate blood with the likelihood that it may be contaminated and put another human at risk, in the event the blood falls through the crack of the current testing system? I vote no.

Monogamous

May 27th, 2010
11:47 am

There are gay men out there, like myself, who have only ever had 2 sexual partners and gets tested every six months. People like myself are unable to donate blood for the rest of my life. I am O Positive, which means my blood is universal and everyone can use it. I believe I should be able to donate blood that could save someone’s life. I don’t think it is discrimination to forbid me to, I would just like to do my part to help others.

dtboy

May 27th, 2010
12:10 pm

Label the source of the blood, as they do the type of blood and let the recipient preselect from what pool(s) of blood they’re comfortable in receiving and in what order of preference. Just like a donor card, this could be listed on their license and/or known by their PCP. If not available, then any source of blood matching their blood type that’s required to save their lives could be used, unless they’re specifically against it. This method with satisfy both the donor’s willingness to give and the recipient’s choice to receive. Discrimination is a non-issue as the donor’s motivation should be primarily out of help/love and not out of forcing their blood upon someone in the name of “equality.”

Kevin

May 27th, 2010
1:20 pm

“Anyone that is participating in high risk sexual behaviors should not be allowed to donate blood.” – that should be straight married men — you are the ones on the down low and sleeping around. Not gay men.

Posterwolf

May 27th, 2010
1:32 pm

Any ban should focus exclusively on high risk behavior, not on the orientation of the donor. Under the current rules, a heterosexual man who has sex with 1,000 women in a year is apparently welcome to donate while a gay man who has had sex once since 1977 is not. This makes no sense.

Garry Owen

May 27th, 2010
1:33 pm

Wait until another break out of HIV from blood donated by gays. I can not give blood because of a blood thinner I have to take. Am I a target of discrimination?

Devildog

May 27th, 2010
1:43 pm

Negative.
It’s not just the idea of gay men giving blood. It’s the reality that there are weaknesses in the system–sloppy technicians, nurses–that can allow something bad to slip through the cracks.
When in doubt, vote no.

mike

May 27th, 2010
2:15 pm

so as a gay man who uses condoms, is hiv neg and practices safe sex, I can’t give blood…yet a married who could potentially be hiring prostitutes or sleeping with multiple women or guys (and there are a lot of them who do meet up with men) and not using protection can give blood just because he didn’t self identify as “gay?” sorry, but that’s a flawed system

Emily

May 27th, 2010
2:26 pm

For those who are saying hetero men might sleep around more than homo men is not the issue. The article states that HIV/AIDS is more prevelant in the homosexual community. That is why this is an issue. Not a debate on the number of partners. Re-read the article. I agree with dtboy. If this turns out to be yet another issue of “equal rights” in the gay community I will barf. Just be gay and stop trying to force it down everyone else’s throat who is not. Its sexual prefernce. It doesnt need to be a civil rights issue. Im sick of it. And, no, I would not want homosexual blood.

Billy

May 27th, 2010
2:28 pm

We live in a state where abstinence is taught rather than teaching students appropriate safe sex practices. At least once a year there are blood drives held at many local area high schools. There is a pretty good chance that these under-educated, sexed-up teens are providing lower quality blood than the gay population would if they were given their chance. (By the way, probably a handful of these teens are closeted gays, but as long as they are closeted it’s o.k., right?) Healthy adults that practice safe sex, no matter their sexual preference, should be allowed, AND thanked, for donating such a precious resource.

CMDT

May 27th, 2010
2:45 pm

Yes. The ban should be lifted and more scrutiny placed on high-risk sexual activity. If you don’t think that you are discriminating based upon sexual orientation, ask yourself if you have a problem that gay women are not excluded from donating blood. Gay women have an even lower risk for HIV than heterosexual women.

“Something bad” can “slip through the cracks” with any donor at risk for any disease; that’s the reality of it. One hopes that people who donate blood are doing so out of a sense of altruism. Gay men who are at a low risk for transmitting blood-borne diseases should be allowed to donate blood just like everyone else who passes the screening criteria.

kimmer

May 27th, 2010
2:55 pm

All of you with your garters in a knot over this please read the article. It includes about 7 specific and very good reasons explaining why homosexual men are excluded from donating blood and they are all risk based. We all know there are monogamous homosexual men and very promiscuous heterosexual men but you cannot dwell on individual cases. The reality is, as stated by the article, blood donated by homosexual men is 60 times more likely to test positive for HIV than any other group. Homosexual men are also more likely to carry other blood borne diseases such as hepatitis. There is also a certain number of cases, usually because of timing of infection, that get through the testing safety net. Thus there is a very good reason to exclude this group. If it were discriminatory there would be a similar ban for lesbians but there is not. So let’s get off the soapbox shall we..

roswell

May 27th, 2010
3:05 pm

Made mistakes in my past and i am no longer living that lifestyle. No way I am a danger, is a *lifetime* ban really necessary? I can definitely get behind a waiting period, like all the other hazardous activities.

John

May 27th, 2010
3:08 pm

The fastest growing group of new infections is among black straight women. Around the world, heterosexuals are more likely to have HIV than gay people. And yet gay people are disallowed from giving if they had protected sex one time in their life?

The root of this is that people just feel icky about gay blood. News flash homophobes: you can’t catch gay from gay blood.

Decatur Taliban

May 27th, 2010
3:09 pm

To hell with that. I don’t think anyone in their right mind is going to risk HIV contamination to be politically correct. Allowing homosexuals to serve in the military is one thing but taking the chance of getting contaminated blood is something else.

Posterwolf

May 27th, 2010
3:10 pm

Emily,

Risky behavior is indeed the issue, not the identity or orientation of the donor. Many communities of color also have high rates of HIV/AIDS and yet there is no blanket ban on blacks or latinos donating blood. Your statement “HIV/AIDS is more prevalent in the homosexual community” is more accurately put as: “HIV/AIDS is more prevalent among men who engage in unsafe sexual practices with other men.” That’s why a monogamous gay couple who have been together for years are less of a threat to the blood supply than a single heterosexual man who engages in multiple unprotected sexual encounters. And yet the latter is allowed to donate all he wants. Banning gay men from donating only creates a false sense of security. Screening should be based on risky behavior only. I’d feel much safer with screening questions along the lines of “Have you engaged in unprotected sex in the past 6-12 months?,” “Are you unaware of your HIV status?” I’d be happy to see these questions get very specific in terms of types of acts, fluid exchange, etc.

This isn’t an attempt to be politically correct at the expense of endangering blood recipients. It’s a more sensible, and more secure, way of evaluating the screening process. Focusing on behavior is safer than focusing on identity. Allowing HIV negative gay men to donate when the need for blood is so great will result in a net benefit to public health.

Lily

May 27th, 2010
3:13 pm

How would they know you are gay unless you tell them? I have never been allowed to donate because they said I didn’t weigh enough.

John

May 27th, 2010
3:42 pm

Probably should ban black blood while we’re at it….

WhyThe Face

May 27th, 2010
4:00 pm

Emily – Please crawl back under that rock you were under.
Posterwolf – Perfectly articulated!

blkshepherd

May 27th, 2010
4:13 pm

How Many DL men yes MEN who sleep with other man and have wives and girlfriends are going to donate blood and say sheeesh! dont tell no body but although I am married I also sleep with men on the side. I dont give a RATS a#! how much you THINK that gay men should not donate. You should TREAT ALL BLOOD AS IF IT HAS HIV DUHHHHHH! There are people who steal and say they dont, people who use DRUGs(yet denie it) WTF? You damn idiots on here claming you dont want homosexual blood you damn air head how do you KNOW somebody is gay if they dont tell you? What about those who have no money or job and LIE just to get that money. ME personally I dont want NO damn body blood..gay or straight. Infact If I needed a blood transfusion..i would prefer them to store My own Blood..I dont want ANYBODY else damn blood Period..GAY or Straight. There are a lot of Strait folks whos blood is NO good either you damn idiots make me laugh..its the same rule..when you have sex. I dont care if the person is made out of gold..still put on a damn condom and treat everyone and I do Mean EVERYONE like they got something wrong with them or tainted blood..that includes Doctors nurses and medical staff..No one is exempt! Bad blood will take you out..gay straight in between.No exceptions.

Marcos

May 27th, 2010
4:18 pm

Emily… i doubt if you are ever in need of a transfusion you would turn down the blood. And I find it confusing that you believe that only gay people with multiple partners are the risk. That is just dumb and myopic thinking. But your comment “it’s a sexual preference” proves just how dumb you are. Being gay is biological. However being stupid is a choice.

Marie

May 27th, 2010
4:33 pm

Were any of you adults in the early 80″s? Reading about hemophilliacs and others , Arthur Ashe comes to mind, that died because of the tainted blood supply, assures me that I will never want to see the ban lifted.
I know there are plenty of gay men that will be discriminated against due to the lack of ethics of those that came before. I am sorry for that but I do not want to hear of unsuspecting people dying as they were then.

Debora

May 27th, 2010
5:22 pm

Emily, I would happily refrain from giving you my homosexual blood if I could deny you!

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

May 27th, 2010
6:14 pm

“Should ban on gay men’s blood donations be lifted?”

Yes, if one wants aids etc….

Yo mama Obama

May 27th, 2010
6:18 pm

Awe, my comment was pulled! LOL

Yo mama Obama

May 27th, 2010
6:20 pm

“Or do you think the safety of the country’s blood supply makes this form of discrimination necessary?”

I love it when liberals form questions with words like “discrimination” and “controversial.”

1: No one in their right mind would ever take blood from a gay man.
2: The average lifespan of a gay man is 45.

Pete

May 28th, 2010
10:46 am

Why not allow gays to donate, but just keep that blood supply separate? If a person who needs a transfusion wants to use the blood in that particular supply they can opt in, otherwise they can use the supply of blood from non-gays.

william

May 28th, 2010
10:51 am

Oh come on people we got to make homosexuality NORMAL for everybody.

G.

May 28th, 2010
11:23 am

NO, No, and NO x 1000

Greg

May 28th, 2010
11:58 am

The ignorance on here is appalling. Yes, Marie, there were issues in the 80s, but that was 20-30 years ago…glad to see you are still living in the past. Technology (i.e. testing processes) are completely different now than then, and ALL blood needs to be thoroughly screened for the reasons pointed out by the smart folks on here, i.e. “straight” men sleeping with other men on the DL and/or prostitutes, or even just multiple sexual partners. As to ‘Yo Mama’, you’re an idiot…it was another idiot like you who, a few years back, was spreading the false rumor that the lifespan of gay men was mid-40s, which was based on a statistically invalid sample and proved by many to be a lie. Get a clue!

DLT

May 28th, 2010
12:04 pm

I always wanted to give blood… I tried when I was 18 years of age and that was many, many moons ago…However, they told me then that I didn’t have enough to give. Hence…low iron, low blood count. A lifetime medical situation for me. May God bless everyone that is able to give blood. I wish I could store my own, but I don’t have enough to even do that. LOL Oh Well. I wish everyone good health.

JK

May 28th, 2010
12:56 pm

To those saying things about gay rights being tired of gay rights being a civil rights issue I have this to say. If my right to live as I choose and marry who I choose, and live how I choose is not a civil right then neither is your right to religion. They are both in your mind (though science & common sense say otherwise for homosexuality) a “choice” and if one is not protected neither is the other.

Put simply, I will stop “cramming down your throat” my civil rights when your people stop cramming our religious morals and demands down everyone else!

As to the blood, do it on risky behavior, not who you are. I know plenty of straight men who have sex with hookers.. and the HIV rate with hookers is higher than gas. Same for black women, more of them are getting HIV than gay men? Are we going to blanked ban black women and guys who sleep with hookers for life? I doubt it. All I ask is that they base it on science and not “ewwww ick gay people”.

hoodtechie

May 28th, 2010
1:15 pm

Let me ask you this, would you take blood from a known intravenous drug user who shoots up herion,didn’t think so.Since hiv is prevalent in the gay community then those who practice this lifestyle should be banned from giving blood. How many people would accept blood from a known gay person? You chose your lifestyle and I can accept that, but don’t think that I should expose myself to the consequences of your choices.

Silentpooter

May 28th, 2010
1:36 pm

I donate platelets every two weeks and blood every 56 days. The Red Cross has never looked up my skirt to see what flavor I am. It’s based on a questionnaire on a computer screen. Who’s to say I’m being truthful when I fill it out? I’ve donated over 125 units in my lifetime and I figure I have another 120 in me before I’m done. I’d like to think my blood or platelets or plasma, makes some of you ignorant, trailer dwelling jesus freaks a little smarter should you ever need it.

Nirish

May 28th, 2010
2:05 pm

HIV is also more prevalent in the African American community, but I don’t hear anyone calling out to ban African Americans. I’d rather receive blood or blood products from a gay man who practices safe sex and gets tested than some straight guy who has sex indiscriminantly and thinks he’s not at risk because he thinks HIV is still a “gay disease”

Gavin

May 28th, 2010
3:02 pm

I think the health of the patient is the most important thing, not the orientation of the doner, anyone who has high risk sex should not consider donating regardless of their orientation, There is a shortage of blood and it seems stupid to ban a gay man because he’s gay, if he sleeps around ban him but I know plenty of gay men who have never considered having unprotected sex. More research on testing methods should be done, and Emily, If you needed blood and the only blood available was from a healthy homosexual you would be right not to take it, your better off being sick and ignorant rather than growing a brain and getting a life