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Blood donation discrimination question
Feb 8, 2008

Hi. I am a medical student, and I wanted to have your input about the whole blood donation issue. I am a completely pro-equality straight married woman, and the idea that gay men can't donate blood has always disturbed me. Recently a university decided it was no longer holding blood drives on campus for this reason. This kind of disturbs me too! People (gay, straight, HIV negative, positive, whatever!) need these donations! What is your opinion and why?

As I read more about the whole issue, I am seeing how gut-wrenchingly complex it is, so I wanted to know if you had any suggestions for what the blood donation regulations SHOULD be. While the vast majority of gay men are HIV negative, they are more likely to be positive than the general population. Although blood is screened for HIV, there is inevitably going to be some donations that passes testing. The FDA gives that as a reason (excuse?) for why gay men shouldn't donate, despite the blood screening. But then should the FDA just bar everyone who had unprotected sex in the last six months, gay or straight, but allow gay people who had unprotected sex before then to donate? Basically what is the best way to protect the blood supply, make sure it's not so restrictive that many fewer people can donate, AND AVOID DISCRIMINATION?

THANKS! AC

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello AC,

This is not a difficult or complex issue. Common sense is all that's required. The rules should apply equally to gays as well as straights. Exclude blood donors who have had potentially risky exposures within the past three months. Personally I'd rather get a transfusion from a gay monogamously coupled male than a 20-year-old heterosexual horndog college kid who knows nothing about STD protection, because all he's been exposed to is Dubya's disastrous abstinence-only till marriage sex-education initiative. These kids often are having risky sex with multiple partners and may not even realize it. Half of all new HIV infections in the U.S. are in young adults aged 13-24. Yet these heterosexuals are welcomed to donate. Go figure! When Bush is finally run out of town with his legacy of a failed presidency, hopefully Barrack or Hillary will bring common sense and science back to the FDA and all of America for that matter.

Dr. Bob



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