Discrimination denial

The current federal policy prohibiting gay and bisexual men from donating blood is a discriminatory one that must be repealed at the earliest possible date.

The policy, which was adopted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1983, defers any men who have had sex with other men at any time since 1977 as blood donors.

The FDA justifies this policy with the statistic that men who have sex with other men are, as a group, at an increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.

However, by assuming an individual would knowingly donate blood when HIV positive, we must also assume that same individual would lie on the donor questionnaire in order to donate the same HIV positive blood.

While it is hoped everyone answers the questionnaire truthfully and at-risk individuals can be deferred prior to donation, the only real assurance the FDA can give to the safety of its blood donations rests in the accuracy of the 14 tests* administered prior to transfusion.

Regardless of its source, blood donations must be tested for HIV. Although pre-screening donors can reduce the likelihood of receiving infected blood, it does not eliminate the possibility, as a heterosexual woman unknowingly infected with HIV cannot be considered less likely to donate than a gay man.

It is not gay sex that threatens the blood supply, but rather unsafe sex; and if the 1,641,946 births to unmarried women in the U.S. reported by the CDC this past year is any indication of America’s safe sex practices, the nation does indeed have a problem.

Some 4.5 million Americans would die each year without receiving blood transfusions. With a population of more than 300 million, of which only 5 percent donate blood on a yearly basis*, the U.S. cannot afford to limit its blood supply on the basis of sexual orientation.

*Statistics taken from Blood Centers of the Pacific