The Department of Health and Human Services last summer has decided to keep the current ban on donations of blood by gay and bisexual men.
As one could predict, there was a frenzy of hand-wringing by conservatives about how ending the ban would result in diseased blood, despite the conclusions of both the American Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks that the current ban is medically and scientifically unwarranted. Fear of "gay blood" has even been used as a reason to try to continue the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (as if there are not gay and lesbian soldiers already serving).
Reason one: Donated blood is already tested for disease Being straight or female does not confer some sort of immunity to STIs, so blood is already thoroughly tested before it gets to those who need it. Were gay men able to donate, their blood would be tested too. Any blood testing positive for disease does not make it to patients.
Reason two: The ban relies on accurate self-reporting The idea that, if the ban were lifted, HIV+ gay men would crowd the blood banks in a deliberate attempt to infect someone else is ludicrous. Frankly, anyone with that kind of motivation could do it now, simply by lying. And their blood would fail the screening test (see reason one). Moreover, closeted gay or bisexual men might not inform their female partners about their same-sex activities, meaning that these women can donate blood under current circumstance, while a woman who knows that her male partner has had same-sex experiences cannot. Reason three: The one-year ban on heterosexual women with MSM partners As it is now, if a woman has sex with a man who has had sex with another man (MSM) she cannot donate blood until a year after that relationship ends. At that point, she is once again able to donate. This artificial time constraint points out the logical gap in the current ban. A woman who has stopped having sex with her MSM partner for a year is no less a potential risk than a woman whose current MSM partner has not had a same-sex partner in over a year. Yet under the ban one can donate and one cannot.
Reason four: We operate under a critical blood, organ and tissue shortage, which costs people's lives The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law says, "Completely lifting the ban would add an estimated 219,000 pints to the blood supply and 903 organ donations each year. A more limited revision of the policy, which would limit blood donation by those men who have not had a male sex partner in the past year, would yield an estimated 90,000 additional pints of blood and nearly 370 organ donations annually. Finally, changing the blood supply policy to restrict donations by men who have had sex with men in the last five years would result in an additional 70,000 pints to the blood supply each year."
Reason five: Go back and read Reason One again
This is why organizations like the American Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks, who are hardly liberal bastions, and are directly concerned with ensuring supplies of blood, organs, and tissues, were arguing for a lifting of the ban.
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