Gay men can't donate blood but former sex tourists can

Questions on blood donor questionnaire:

Have you had sexual contact with someone who has HIV /AIDS or has tested positive for HIV/AIDS?

Have you had sexual contact with a prostitute or someone else who takes money or drugs or other payment for sex?

From 1977 to the present have you received money, drugs, or other payment for sex?

(Males Donors) Have you had sex with another male (even just once)?

Yesterday the local blood center was giving away 2 pints of Baskin Robbins ice cream for 1 pint of blood. Since the average human has 10 pints of blood, that means that I would have to donate 5 times before my body would be coursing with 100% cookies ‘n’ cream.

We all have our dreams.

They didn’t want my blood. But not for any of the have-you-had-sex-with ____ reasons above, but because I recently had been to Colombia. I left ashamed. I really wanted to give. Ashamed, but comforted by the fact I still scored 2 pints of Baskin Robbins.

I got to thinking about all of the evasive questions and it was brought to my attention that if you are a man who has had sex with a man “even once” you can NEVER give blood.

Never.

Gay men can’t donate blood. Ever. The FDA does not allow it.

Fear trumps science

There really doesn’t seem to be much reason or science to why gay men can’t donate. In fact, here’s what the American Blood Centers and the American Red Cross told the FDA in 2006:

“The current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted.”

This ban seems to be a carry over from the HIV/AIDS scare of the 1980s. Then maybe it made sense: No one was sure what was going on or how the disease was transmitted. (My brother had convinced me that you contracted AIDS after sitting on the toilet at a truck stop.) And the disease was decimating the gay community.

Instead of hanging out with coffee farmers in Colombia, if I would have maxed out my credit card having wild, drug-fuelled orgies with HIV positive Colombian prostitutes, according to the FDA, I could donate one year post-orgy. (Post-orgy, that is the first time I’ve ever used that word.) But if I were a gay man (like this guy) in a monogamous relationship and had been with only this one partner, and we always used condoms, the FDA would ban me for life from giving blood.

That’s right, a former sex tourist could give, but not a gay man.

Is that fair? Is this discrimination? If you were in need of a couple pints of blood who would you choose to receive from, a gay man in a monogamous relationship or a recently reformed male sex tourist who frequented Thai brothels for 30 years before stopping 12 months ago?

The reason that former drug users and prostitute-frequenters can give is because all donated blood is tested.

The Department of Health and Human Services is currently conducting a study to see if the ban on gay men donating can be lifted. Hopefully, science will trump our fears. It has in the UK. They now allow men who’ve not had sex with another man in the previous 12 months to donate. I guess that’s progress, but still seems inordinately discriminatory and an unnecessary way to limit the blood supply.

Every 2 seconds someone needs blood. That’s 4.5 million Americans each year in need of a transfusion. Every summer and during holidays there are blood shortages. This is a ban that impacts us all.

Gay men should be allowed to give.

If you agree sign this petition to the FDA to lift the ban

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