The Gay Blood Libel
The Advocate has published an excellent and extensive article by Steven W. Thrasher about the FDA's decades-old ban on gay men donating blood. An excerpt:
Today, three years after the American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, and America’s Blood Centers blasted the policy as “scientifically and medically unwarranted,” congressional representatives have ramped up pressure on the FDA to reconsider the ban. They’re not alone. Several colleges and universities throughout the nation have scrapped on-campus blood drives, claiming that the policy runs counter to collegiate antidiscrimination rules. Abroad, Italy and Spain have adopted blood donation policies based on the risks of sexual practices, regardless of sexual orientation, while several other countries now allow gay men to donate if they have abstained from sexual contact for one year.Read the entire article.
President Barack Obama, who announced just weeks into his administration that the nation “will make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,” tapped Margaret Hamburg, MD, a former New York City health commissioner who spent much of the 1990s intimately involved with HIV/AIDS issues, to head the FDA. In August the president nominated Helene Gayle, MD, a 25-year veteran of HIV research who has worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to replace Oklahoma U.S. senator Tom Coburn, a medical doctor who has railed against the efficacy of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases, as chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
So the groundwork has been laid for examining if and how gay men can donate blood safely in the United States. But whether this will lead to a scientifically sound change in blood donation policy remains unclear.