The Food and Drug Administration continues its ban on gay men donating blood, even in the face of nationwide protests.
The ban has been effect since 1983 and prevents gay men from donating blood largely because of the fear of sexually transmitted infections. The ban places gay men in the same category as, for example, individuals carrying mad-cow disease and drug addicts that use hypodermic needles to get their fix. Many consider the ban to be archaic, and on June 12, protests erupted across the country in an attempt to change the FDA’s rules on blood donations.
A participant in Boston, Ian Placido, reported that “21 people turned out to get tested [all negative] and attempted to donate blood, and were then turned away. The Red Cross was aware of the day’s event and was very supportive.”
STI testing is relatively simple to conduct, leading opponents of the ban to note that it would be just as easy to detect traces of dangerous STIs in the blood of gay men as it would in the blood of heterosexual donors. FDA considers the risks attached to harvesting gay men’s blood to be higher than those associated with the blood of heterosexual individuals, regardless of the fact that STIs infect people without regard for sexual orientation.
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Blood banks currently test all donations for major eight major diseases. Many argue that this process could easily be adjusted to take into account the STIs commonly associated with homosexual intercourse, thus effectively removing the risk of harvesting the blood of gay men.