The current ban on any man who participates in sexual behavior with other men (MSM) from donating blood has been in affect since the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s. The rapid spread of the virus through blood transfusions and the limited testing available made the ban a vital part of protecting the blood supply and those who rely on it for their survival.
However, decades later, the testing and the preventative measures available mean that all MSM are no longer an "at risk" demographic and should no longer be prevented from donating their potentially life saving blood. The current request from Rep. Mike Quigley and Sen. John Kerry, as well as 60+ other US legislators, to have the HHS review the policy is a promising first step. But I implore you not to delay taking action. Every day that the 50,000+ potential gay donors are denied that ability, the health crisis persists and people's lives are put in jeopardy. How many lives is conducting another study worth? Change the criteria NOW!
This issue has no bounderies. It is not a gay issue. It is not a straight issues. It isn't a male issue or a female issue. This is not even a Democrat or Republican issue. This is a human issue! Once all those other distinctions fall away, we can truly work together and stand for life!
Every two seconds, somewhere in the United States, a person is in need of a blood transfusion. And every year, approximately 50,000 men with the potential to donate close to 90,000 pints of blood are turned away for no other reason than because they engage in sexual behavior with other men. This was an issue that I have been present to for a long time, having been denied the ability to give blood. But it is time to step up and make a change!
The FDA currently states that any man who has had sex with another man, whether gay or bi, even once, since 1977 is banned from donating blood forever! Not only is that potentially denying sick people the blood they need to survive, but it is open and blatant institutionalized discrimination. The ban's adoption in the 1980s during the AIDs epidemic was a direct result of lack of knowledge and blood testing technology. At the time, the ban seemed reasonable. However, in the decades since its creation, blood testing technology and our understanding of HIV/AIDS has increased exponentially while the ban has remained unchanged. It is antiquated! It might also be justifiable if the ban included other "high risk" groups. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. A heterosexual male or female who knowingly has sex with a person who is HIV+ must only wait one year before donating blood. The double standard is obvious and disgusting. There are very few occasions where we are able to not only overturn discriminatory laws but also solve a pressing health crisis. This is our chance. The few simple changes that can be made to the screening process can have a dramatic affect of the lives of all those men, women and children who rely on transfusions to keep them alive.
I am gay, but more importantly I am O- and I want to help!
Currently, a group of 65 U.S. legislators, including Rep. Mike Quigley D-IL and Sen. John Kerry D-MA, have petitioned the Department of Health and Human Services to re-examine the policy and to move forward with a study to see how repealing the ban might work. I say kudos to you, but that is not enough! This is not something to be discussed and studied. It is wrong and needs to end... NOW! The longer we wait, the more people suffer from the rapidly diminishing blood supply. Not one more person should die because healthy men are unable to give their much needed blood!
Thank you for your time