FDA Risks Lives, Votes to Uphold Homophobic “Gay Blood Ban”

June 14, 2010 by Stephen Piggott
Filed under: Health, Politics 
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Let’s face it; there is a serious shortage of blood in this country and for that matter around the world. The Red Cross is in dire need of type O Negative blood and is estimating that it will face a critical shortage this summer if more donors are not found. In many donation centers around the United States, blood donations are down, even though springtime is usually the high time of donations. The consequences of this shortage are very serious, with people such as transplant patients not able to get the blood they need for serious operations. With lives on the line, ordinary citizens, medical experts and the US government have all been asking each other the same question, what can we do to increase the blood supply?

The solution comes in the laws created and maintained by the Food and Drug Administration. These draconian laws are out of date and flawed. One of the laws that has been getting a lot of attention lately is referred to as the “gay blood ban.” This regulation bans all men who have had sex with another man at any point since 1977 from donating blood. I found out about it last week, and I was so shocked and appalled that I thought it must be a joke.

How wrong I was. The ban was in the news last week when a Food and Drug Administration committee voted 9-6 vote NOT to change any of the current regulations on the books, in essence upholding the “gay blood ban.”

To see an obvious example of how ludicrous and outdated these regulations are, I point your attention to an article in the LA Times stating, “A key point of contention at the two-day hearing in suburban Washington was the disparate treatment of gays, who incur a lifetime ban for a single sex act even years in the past, and heterosexual men or women, who are required to defer giving blood for only one year if they have sex with someone with HIV.”

It is no surprise that people across the country are furious at the recent vote to uphold the ban. Eight Democratic members of congress wrote a scathing response to The Hill this weekend concluding, “An exhaustive FDA review of America’s blood donation policies is long overdue. As members of Congress, we pledge to work with our colleagues to extend equality, build a broader base of potential blood donors, and safely increase the nation’s blood supply.”

With so many people in desperate need of blood for various reasons, a lift on the “gay blood ban” is essential. The sad story is that too many people die in the United States each year because of a lack of blood. The eight-year-old boy who needs a kidney transplant or the 74-year-old cancer patient don’t care where the blood they need comes from, they just care that it is available for them.

Then there are the perfectly healthy men who want to give blood, who want to help a loved one or their community, but are barred from doing so. This ban is a nasty reminder of the days when gay men in America were viciously blamed for the AIDS pandemic, and a sign that the U.S. has a long way to go in recognizing gay individuals as first class citizens.

Sexual orientation is not a health problem. Treating it as such is not only discriminatory, but a matter of life and death.

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