Sunday morning hospitals called out for blood donors to help save the 53 injured in the Orlando gay club hate attack. But because of the FDA’s discriminatory laws, the very community most affected can not donate. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are unable to donate due to an outdated and unsupported ban that was placed on them during the 1980’s at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Over 30 years later, the ban still exists almost exactly as it was. And not because the evidence supports that, but instead because the FDA hasn't bothered to decipher any evidence. Add your name if you think it's time the FDA conducted the necessary research to be sure as many eligible people as possible are allowed to donate.
Last December was the first roll back on the moratorium: now MSM can donate, but only if they have not had sex in the last year. This roll back was pure placation and exposed the discriminatory influence on the FDA's regulations. The FDA’s justification for the continued ban is “insufficient data”, but this is only a weak and belittling excuse to keep a harmful practice in place. The American Medical Association has even called the current restrictions on MSM blood donation "medically unwarranted."
The FDA legally regulates that a man can’t donate blood if he has had sex with another man in the last 12 months. Women who have slept with an MSM can also not donate. In the years since the AIDS outbreak in the US, the scientific community has learned much more about the blood-borne illnesses. And yet, the FDA is unwilling to connect the dots and conduct the research needed to learn who can and cannot safely donate blood based on what we now know.
The justification for the ban is “insufficient data”, which is just a way to say they’re unwilling to do the work to collect the data. HIV does take some time to show up, which is one reason for the one-year abstinence rule. However, the regulation doesn’t take into account MSM who have only had sex with one partner in the last year, and both have conclusively proven to be HIV negative. Yet a heterosexual man who had unprotected sex with dozens of partners in the last year remains eligible to donate. Risk factors are accounted for, and tests are done extensively on all donated blood. In fact, testing called NAT can pick up HIV in units of blood as soon as nine days after infection. The ban on MSM donation seems to be more about fear than protecting blood supplies.
At this moment of national pain and hurt, this ban on MSM donation is a sharp example of the way this community is targeted in more than one way. Sign now to tell the FDA to allocate funds to reevaluate the regulations surrounding gay men donating blood.