The FDA is discussing partially lifting the ban on gay blood donors, to take place next year that will lift the permanent ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood to a one year ban after they have had sex with another man. This is similar to the length of time someone is banned from donating blood if they have gotten a tattoo or piercing, so it is a definite step in the right direction. A statement put out by the?FDA today:
?The agency will take the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men from indefinite deferral to one year since the last sexual contact.?
Some people are afraid this will allow potentially HIV positive donors to slip into the blood supply.
I have intimate knowledge of what goes into ensuring the safety of the blood supply. I was a transfusion medicine specialist in Iraq, and a blood banker for a large part of my military career. There are numerous reasons why people are deferred from donating blood. For instance, people who lived in Germany between the late 1980s and 1990s have a permanent deferment from donating blood due to the fact that there is no reliable test for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is Mad Cow disease in humans. People who have received certain types of tissue grafts, lived in certain malarial or other endemic disease areas, or who have tested positive for TB are not allowed to donate. The?list is quite extensive.
These are legitimate safety concerns. Preventing gay men from donating is just silly, discriminatory and pointless. Every unit of blood is tested more than once for a host of blood borne pathogens, with HIV being only one. It is time to let this holdover from the AIDS panic days of Reagan die quietly. Some people need to remember that it was not all that long ago that blacks were prevented from donating blood as well, because it was considered their blood would automatically be tainted with syphilis. This proved to be a groundless fear, and when the stigma is removed from gays and bisexuals, it will prove to be just as groundless.