After dropping hints earlier this month that it was reconsidering its longstanding ban on blood donations by gay men, the FDA adopted a new policy last week, easing the lifetime ban but still requiring men to abstain from sex with other men for an entire year before being eligible to donate. Mark Joseph Stern is unsatisfied:
This is, no doubt, a step forward. But it’s a very small one. The one-year deferral policy is still rooted in an outdated, insulting vision of gay men as diseased, promiscuous lechers. A gay man in a decades-long monogamous relationship with his husband will be forbidden from donating blood. So, too, will any gay or bisexual man who consistently practices safe sex. Meanwhile, straight people who routinely have sex with multiple opposite-sex partners—whether or not they use condoms—face no deferral at all. A straight man can donate blood the morning after participating in an unprotected, anonymous orgy. A married gay man cannot donate blood at all.
Adam Chandler adds:
“I predict blood donation drops because it’s way less embarrassing to lie about being gay than to lie about being celibate,” one observer remarked. It’s a great line, but also highlights the complexity and the absurdity of a policy that is already based on a wayward honor system of sorts.
As many have noted, the new policy conforms with that of a number of countries including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, and Japan, all of which use the one-year ban.
Nevertheless, as Elaine Teng pointed out, the one-year deferral puts gay or bisexual men on the same donor pool as “heterosexuals who have had sex with someone who is HIV-positive, and heterosexuals who have had sex with a sex worker.” In other words, the standard for gay identity is equal to action for heterosexuals.
Scott Shackford weighs in:
Current HIV tests can detect the virus now with just an 11-day window for incubation. So a permanent ban preventing gay and bisexual men from donating blood is overkill. But even the one-year ban seems extreme, given the science. AIDS awareness group Gay Men’s Health Crisis calls the new policy useless and essentially a “lifetime ban” for most gay men. But this one-year ban matches the rules for other countries like the United Kingdom and Canada. According to one study, letting gay men who aren’t getting laid donate blood would add 317,000 pints to the blood supply in the United States annually.
So I’m working on my script treatment for a gay “indie” romantic comedy about two lonely men who meet while donating blood and have to get over whatever personality quirks have been keeping them from getting some action. Steal my idea and you’ll be the one needing blood donations.