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U.S. News

Gay Blood Drive Puts Pressure on U.S. FDA Over Rules

July 16, 2013

The first national Gay Blood Drive, held on July 12, aimed to pressure the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into lifting a ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. Ryan James Yezak organized the national blood drive. Yezak is a 26-year-old gay man from Houston who is filming a documentary about discrimination based on sexual orientation. The FDA bans blood and bone marrow donations from any man who has had sex with another man at any time since 1977. According to the FDA, men who have sex with men (MSM) made up 61 percent of new HIV infections in 2010, and although the overall HIV rate was stable from 2008 to 2010, the rate of infection increased 12 percent among MSM while the rate in other populations decreased.

Blood collection agencies screen all donations for specific disqualifying conditions, including HIV, but acknowledge there is a period when individuals could be infected without the disease being detectable in their blood. Dr. James AuBuchon of Puget Sound Blood Center said that he used to support the FDA's ban when HIV tests were less reliable, but now he believes the FDA should change its regulations to allow MSM to donate blood if they have not had sex with a male in the last year. AuBuchon believed that the rationale for the ban had diminished due to improved testing.

Others saw the FDA's current policy as discriminatory. A gay man, who participated in the blood drive and was turned away because of the regulations, contended that the policy kept him from helping others, including his own friends. He cited an incident two years ago when he discovered the policy as he tried to get tested as a bone marrow donor for a friend suffering from a blood disease. The man described how weird he felt having to choose between being honest or helping a friend.

An FDA statement noted that the agency was studying the regulations and would discuss its findings in future public forums.

Back to other news for July 2013

Adapted from:
Seattle Times
07.13.2013; Alexa Vaughn

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Opposing viewpoint (Someplace else) Wed., Jul. 24, 2013 at 12:41 am UTC
The problem is that gays are, in fact, much more likely to be HIV positive than straights or lesbians, and the general public has a vested interest in limiting it's exposure to the virus. One cheap, effective way to limit exposure is to filter out gay men, who represent a small number of blood donors but comprise a disproportionate percentage of infections. Is this offensive? It's only offensive if you choose to be offended by the reality that HIV is a disproportionately gay issue. Otherwise, this is common sense. I expect the FDA to act in a manner that is efficient and effective, not just with HIV, but with all the other dangerous viruses which I do not carry.

I fail to see how denying the reality of HIV's impact on the gay community benefits people with HIV, so I'm automatically annoyed that this is being published on an HIV website. Further, I do not see how this sort of push benefits the health of general public. Actually, I fail to see how this call benefits anybody except seronegative gay men who choose to believe that HIV is something to be ashamed of, that they aren't uniquely predisposed to, and so have made this very sensible ban into a personal attack on them. This ban is no more of an attack on gay men than than the ban on certain people who have travelled to mad-cow infected countries is an attack on globetrotters.

What is oppressive is the continued demand by gay men to cover up the reality of this epidemic in their community, to such an extent that they will put the public's health at risk simply so they don't have to acknowledge the reality that they might carry a virus that is not inherently shameful. This entire blood ban concern validates the stigmatizing notion that HIV should be a political, rather than a medical issue, and it's awful public health. Posting this "call to action" isn't progress, it's shameful.
Reply to this comment

Comment by: mk hernandez (Norman, OK) Tue., Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:30 pm UTC
Allow gay men the right to donate blood, please sign the petition I created, and pass it around to as many people as you can?:
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