Please Donate Blood, Because Not Everyone Can
This summer, the Red Cross had to once again sound the alarm, issuing an emergency call for blood donors to help alleviate a nation-wide shortage in blood products. While Americans across the country responded to the Red Cross’ appeal, one group did not. Correction, could not.
Under current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy, gay men in the United States are permanently barred from donating blood. The FDA’s misguided ban, instituted in 1983 in the early days of an ill-understood HIV epidemic, represented a quick response designed to prevent inadvertent transmission of HIV through blood transfusions. Under the FDA’s blood ban, men who have had sex with other men (MSM), even once, since 1977, are permanently barred from donating blood. This includes MSM who are HIV-negative, consistently practice safe sex, or who are in a monogamous relationship.
Even with vast improvements in testing technology (every pint of blood is tested for a host of communicable diseases), the FDA has continued to justify their permanent ban despite a growing chorus from the medical and scientific community that it is antiquated and discriminatory. A joint statement released in 2006 by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), the Red Cross, and America’s Blood Centers, characterized the lifetime MSM blood ban as “medically and scientifically unwarranted,” and urged the FDA to modify blood donation policies so that they are “comparable with criteria for other groups at increased risk of sexual transmission of transfusion transmitted infections.” In a statement released in June, 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) declared that “the lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science.” The FDA’s policy also stands in stark contrast to the policies of other nations, including Australia and Great Britain, which both have a 1-year deferral period for MSM blood donation, and Canada — which recently revisited it’s permanent ban on MSM blood donation, instituting a 5-year deferral period.
The FDA’s current policy is based on bad science, creates unwarranted stigma and discrimination, and needlessly reduces the supply of badly needed blood products.
This year, Fordham OUTLaws has decided to draw attention to the FDA’s blood ban by raising awareness amongst the Fordham Law community, working with Fordham’s Health, Education, Advocacy and Law Society (H.E.A.L.S.) to publicize the issue. On September 16th, the OUTLaws provided postcards to donors urging them to “Donate Blood Because Not Everyone Can” during the New York Blood Center’s blood drive in the Platt Atrium, and also placed these cards in classrooms and common areas around the Law School. We would especially like to thank H.E.A.L.S. board member Suzanne Parrish (’15) and Patrick Foley of the New York Blood Center, for helping us highlight the FDA’s discriminatory blood ban.
- David Farber & Steve Shuldman, co-chairs, Fordham OUTLaws (Check us out on Facebook)