Universities and colleges across the country are hosting the National Gay Blood Drive today in an effort to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change its rule that prevents gay men from donating blood.
According to a FDA rule from 1983, men who have had sex with other men, even one time, since 1977, are banned for life from donating blood.
The 1983 rule reportedly excludes more than 4 million Americans from donating blood. The National Gay Blood Drive believes this is discrimination based on sexual orientation (video below).
However, according to the FDA's website:
A history of male-to-male sex (MSM) is associated with an increased risk for exposure to and transmission of certain infectious diseases, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Men who have had sex with other men represent approximately 2% of the US population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV.
In 2010, MSM accounted for at least 61% of all new HIV infections in the U.S. and an estimated 77% of diagnosed HIV infections among males were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control states on its website:
Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) represent approximately 2% of the United States population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV. In 2010, young gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24 years) accounted for 72% of new HIV infections among all persons aged 13 to 24, and 30% of new infections among all gay and bisexual men. At the end of 2010, an estimated 489,121 (56%) persons living with an HIV diagnosis in the United States were gay and bisexual men, or gay and bisexual men who also inject drugs.
The University of Cincinnati’s Hoxworth Blood Center, Lane Community College in Oregon and Western Michigan University are some of the schools participating in the blood drive, which is actually collecting signatures (not blood) for a petition against the FDA’s policy.
Dr. Ronald Sacher, director of the Hoxworth Blood Center, told WCPO, “It’s quite apparent that over the years, with the improvement of the safety of the blood supply, that perhaps these policies need to be revisited, and that’s the momentum to re-look at the policies."
The American Red Cross said in a statement that it supports a change in the policy.
AABB, America’s Blood Centers and the American Red Cross believe the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men should be modified and that donor deferral criteria should be made comparable with criteria for other behaviors that pose an increased risk for transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections.
The Boston Globe reported last year that gay men in 53 cities went to American Red Cross centers to give blood, knowing they would get turned away, to raise awareness of what they believe is discrimination.