Let's Stop Banning Gay Men from Donating Blood

Jul 10 at 1pm

One concrete way in which gay men are not yet full citizens is through the ban on blood donation. If you are a man who has had sex with another man since 1977, even once, you are currently forbidden from donating blood to help save someone’s life. Even though the American Red Cross periodically goes through major blood shortages (2011-12 were particularly lean years), and the American Medical Association has called on the FDA to revise its position, ideology continues to trump medical science. Dating to the HIV/AIDS panic years, the policy also includes a one-year donation ban for any woman who has had sex with a man who also has sex with other men.

In response to this unhelpful homophobia, some activists have decided to organize a National Gay Blood Drive. Held tomorrow (Friday, July 11, from noon to 4 p.m.) at SF City Hall and dozens of other places around the country, it’s one of those fun, happy protests where LGBT San Franciscans can bring straight allies, sign a petition to get the White House’s attention, and get their pictures taken in a cute t-shirt in order to send a strong message. (The White House does respond to any petition that 25,000 Americans sign. Even the one calling for the US to build a Death Star.) And this is a policy that could easily be changed. Beyond potentially harming anyone in need of a blood transfusion, and having little medical basis now that HIV tests are so accurate, the FDA is perpetuating a nasty stigma about gay men.

Everyone who is eligible should give blood several times a year – particularly in the summer, when no high school blood drives are held and most shortages occur. Incidentally, not all countries enforce the same lifetime ban (or “indefinite deferral”). Australia, Japan, and the UK require men who have sex with men to wait one year before donating blood, while Italy, Mexico, and Chile have no deferrals. See the full list of eligibility requirements at the Red Cross's donation page.

[Via: SFist; image via Thinkstock]

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