Lift the Ban on Blood Donations From Gay & Bisexual Men
June 10, 2013
Recently, my school held a blood drive—something that many high schools do in the spring. In fact, 20 percent of all blood donations come from high school and college blood drives. But there’s one thing that always gives me pause whenever I fill out a blood donation form, and it’s the fact that any guy who has had sex with another guy since 1977 isn’t eligible to donate blood.
In the 1980s when AIDS first began to be diagnosed in the U.S., people were frightened and didn’t know what caused it. Because AIDS was common among gay men, the government took the steps to block gay and bisexual men from donating blood. Decades later, this law is outdated, discriminatory and ridiculous. Most men who have had sex with men are not HIV positive, and heterosexual people can contract HIV as well. Furthermore, the blood supply is screened for numerous diseases, including HIV.
According to America’s Blood Centers, only 10 percent of the U.S. population donates blood, but 37 percent of people are eligible. Last year the American Red Cross reported that the blood supply was the lowest it’s been in 15 years, yet perfectly healthy donors are being rejected just because of their sexual orientation. The Department of Health and Human Services has said for the past two years that this policy is under review, yet no order has been given to the FDA to lift the ban.
Rejecting gay and bisexual blood donors doesn’t just affect the blood supply. Gay and bisexual guys who want to donate blood can feel shamed and like their school and government don’t accept them for who they are. They also may feel left out because they can’t participate in an important charitable cause, simply because of their sexual orientation. LGBTQ teens experience a higher rate of bullying than other teens as it is, and this policy sends the message that being gay or bisexual is bad, which may increase bullying and homophobia.
Most people aged 17 and older can donate, and in most states, a 16-year-old can donate with parental consent. I encourage everyone to donate blood if they’re eligible and to write to their representatives and senators to take action to lift the ban on gay and bisexual guys donating blood.