After reading the article about the school’s recent blood drive in the last edition of The ECHO, I began to think about the FDA’s ban on blood donations from men who have ever had sex with another man.
On Dec. 23, the FDA decided to ease its ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men, or “MSM.” The policy proposes changes to the ban first enacted in 1983, at the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic, which banned men who had ever had sex with men after the year 1976 from donating blood.
The new policy only bans men who have engaged in same-sex activity in the past 12 months. The original policy was understandable at the time, due to a lack of research but is now out-dated. It has become very easy for blood to be screened for HIV/AIDS and already would be anyways.
While there is still a slim chance that infected blood could slip through, only one in 2 million people got HIV this way, according to the FDA. The risk is far too small to rule out an entire population of healthy donors.
In fact, the Williams Institute says that the new policy “could add about 317,000 pints of blood” to the nation’s supply every year or a 2 to 4 percent increase. If that’s how much blood could possibly donated just from MSM with a 12 month deferral, just imagine how much blood could be donated from all MSM.
The American Medical Association and the American Red Cross, among others, have called upon the FDA to change.
The new step forward is necessary, but it’s not good enough. It discriminates broadly against all MSM, even if they practice safe, monogamous sex with partners who are HIV negative.
The FDA is choosing to discriminate against an estimated 4 million men, according to the Williams Institute’s estimate of gay and bisexual men in America.
We have a duty as citizens to demand an end to this discrimination. I strongly urge those who read this to write Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services telling her that Americans deserve better than this.
David Patrick Schranck, Jr.