Back in the 1980s, when we knew barely anything about the cause and consequences of HIV/AIDS, the virus was commonly perceived as a “gay” disease- it was something “only gay people caught.” Because AIDS can be transmitted through blood transfusion, gay men were banned from donating blood to the national supply.
Well, we now know a lot more about how HIV spreads and know that the disease can strike anyone who is sexually active, be that person gay, straight, in between, or somewhere else entirely.
However, the FDA, and members of one its component boards, the Federal Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability, haven’t caught up with the science, as they voted last week to continue the ban on all gay males from donating blood to the national blood supply:
A federal committee recommends maintaining the policy preventing gay men from donating blood in the United States, provoking disappointment and anger from gay activist groups.
On June 11th, the Federal Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability voted 9 to 6 against lifting the ban. This committee makes recommendations to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
This is frustrating because there’s no reason that gay people, as a population, should be discriminated from giving blood. With proper-i.e. nondiscriminatory- screening, there’s no reason our banked blood can’t be completely safe, especially because all of the US blood supply is screened and tested for HIV and hepatitis.
If you want to ban promiscuous, unprotected-sex having people of all sexual orientations from giving blood donations, that’s one thing: if you don’t use protection and can’t name the number of partners you’ve had, I personally don’t want anything to do with your plasma. But arbitrarily deciding that gay orientation in itself is good enough reason to ban somebody from donating is not only offensive, but short-sighted as well, given that our blood reserves are really low.
Blood donation is a worthy civic contribution and banning donation from groups of people prevents that group from giving its fair share. Very un-Bus, dude.