FDA Gay Blood Ban

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    May 31, 2007 1:55 AM GMT
    My letter to the CDC, Red Cross and FDA May 30, 2007:

    Five years ago, my police partner was shot. He had lost a great deal of blood and lay in a coma.


    I organized a blood drive among local law enforcement personnel. I lined up with hundreds of other officers to donate blood at our local court house.


    When my turn came, I was asked if I had ever had same-gender sex. I said yes.


    The American Red Cross representative then told me that she could not accept my blood and she placed my name into a computer permanently barring me from ever giving blood.


    She told me, "According to the FDA, you're at increased risk of infection by HIV, which can be transmitted to others by blood transfusion."


    "Don't you test donated blood," I asked.


    "Yes, we test it all."


    A numbness slowly washed over me. As an HIV-negative cop, all I was trying to do was help save my partner's life the only way I knew how. And I was being blocked by government policy.


    Suddenly, my police instincts kicked back into service.


    "If I had lied, would you have taken my blood?"


    " Yes."


    Last week, the FDA reiterated this long-standing policy more than a year after the Red Cross and two other blood groups criticized it as ''medically and scientifically unwarranted.'' The FDA said it would change its policy if given data demonstrating that a change wouldn't pose a ''significant and preventable'' risk to blood recipients.


    54 percent of all new HIV infections in the United States occur among African Americans. 64 percent of all new infections in women occur in African American women. 75 percent of all new infections in women are heterosexually transmitted.


    Would the FDA ever consider banning African Americans and heterosexual women from giving blood?


    The FDA's practice of discriminating against gay men from donating blood should be stopped.




  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    May 31, 2007 4:30 AM GMT
    Excellent letter. Thank you for initiating a dialogue long overdue.

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    May 31, 2007 4:50 AM GMT
    I have had a similar experience at the hospital in which I am a faculty in the department of medicine. The director of equality forum used my experience to protest with FDA....Nothing happened!

    FDA is actually sitting on its recommendations for utilizing Nucleic Acid Based testing [which has a very narrow window period].

    FDA should actually reveal its stats of how many people were infected with blood products that tested false negatives associated with current discriminatory policies.

    FDA should not throw off the responsibility for its discriminatory policies on others to demonstrate if utilizing blood from gay men is a safe public health policy.

    The screening for suitable donors should be based on individuals risk profile and not a groups risk profile.
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11648

    May 31, 2007 11:15 PM GMT
    This is discrimination in its worst form because it's harming people
    ..they say that there is always a shortage of blood and blood by products
    and they still keep a ban in place that is number one unnecessary
    and two was placed there during the hysterics of the AIDS crisis more than 20 years ago
  • mcwclewis

    Posts: 1701

    Jun 01, 2007 12:49 AM GMT
    I wrote a similar letter two years ago. One of my fraternity brothers uncles needed blood so we all went to a blood drive. They told me I wasn't able to donate for the same reason.... Its ridiculous, HIV is just as prevalent in the heterosexual community as it is in the gay community.
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    Jun 01, 2007 11:23 AM GMT
    This is blatant discrimination...not to mention bullshit. The FDA needs to wake up and realize that gays are the least of their worries. What about the drug users?
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    Jun 01, 2007 1:41 PM GMT
    So would it be wrong to lie to be able to donate? If a person "knows" (through testing) that they are D&D free, would it be wrong to lie to donate? Would knowing that you are helping others outweigh the moral burden of lying?
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    Jun 01, 2007 2:44 PM GMT
    You are an honorable man for initiating the blood drive for your police partner. I hope that the outcome was good for your police partner.

    I too am on the "can't give blood list". My experience was that a co-worker after I left the "blood collection bus" told the Red Cross worker I was gay. They based it on her word rather than my paperwork. I was certain of my negative status so I had lied on the paperwork. I never challenge it.

    The FDA should assume that every drop of blood from every person that passes through its doors is positive until proven otherwise. We have highly specialized tests today with a failure rate approaching 1 in 1 million.

    Such ignorance is dispelled when your brothers and sisters in law enforcement see your courage and I'll bet many of them are on your side in this fight for equality.
  • jc_online

    Posts: 487

    Jun 01, 2007 3:03 PM GMT
    This issue has pissed me off for years! Kudos to you for putting it in writing.

    There are only three groups/types of people who are permanently banned from donating blood:
    1. Any man who has sex with a man since 1977;
    2. IV drug users; and
    3. Commercial sex workers ("daddy called 'em prostitutes")

    Great company, huh?

    Even a woman who has sex with a man who has sex with another man is only barred from doanting for 7 years, WTF???
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    Jun 01, 2007 4:01 PM GMT
    at the risk of receiving a ton of backlash from you guys...isn't the blood supply something that is too precious to have at risk? Blood screening is NOT fool proof - and even if it was - there is HUMAN error. Like the times that a properly labeled blood-type is inadvertently given to a patient. I don't know that it is as much discrimination as paranoia and I don't think even that is the right word...or simply a tough call being made to protect people, INCLUDING gay men! Just throwing that out there - take is as you will.
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    Jun 01, 2007 6:33 PM GMT
    the policy is blantantly discriminatory and wrong-minded. It would be a different story if the criteria had more to do with how many people you've slept with and what if any protection you use, but that wouldn't be foolproof either. What irks me is you could be a woman that holds the record for largest gangbang ever and still be able to give blood, while a guy that's had sex with one guy, both virgins, and monogamous for 12 years can't donate.

    oh and Jc_online, you're also not allowed to give blood if you're under a certain height/weight or if you have anemia, although that's more for your protection than the blood supply
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    Jun 20, 2007 7:41 PM GMT
    As of 2004 the Red Cross actually supported the FDA's choice to continue the ban on homosexuals. Several medical organizations have repeated presented to the FDA stating that a continued ban on homosexuals is blatantly discriminatory.

    One might also note that it does not ask about condom use, number of partners, or personal HIV/AIDS testing. The FDA requires three different tests on ALL blood, I believe, and as of information provided in 2003 some 10 in 12million cases resulted in the recipient of blood contracting HIV/AIDS.

    You must also take into consideration that the Red Cross is the LARGEST of the organizations that fall under FDA control that monitor our blood supply. They are ALSO, conveniently, HIGHLY supported by the christian right. Coincidence? I think not.

    The FDA KNOWS it is discriminatory, but luckily for them, the general American public only views HIV/AIDS as either a gay disease in America or a third world disease in Africa. The information about it growing in the heterosexual community is greatly talked down, as not to scare people that it might not be JUST for the gays.

    Btw... We can thank Reagan for ALL of this, which is so comforting as the GOP (that's Good Old Party, a/k/a Republicans) tries to bring in a Reaganesque candidate.
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    Jun 20, 2007 7:53 PM GMT
    They're afraid of catching homosexuality.
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    Jun 20, 2007 8:21 PM GMT


    I'm just speechless!
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    Jun 20, 2007 8:30 PM GMT
    I agree that the FDA policy is discriminatory, but it's my understanding that, and correct me if I'm wrong, the Red Cross has as of last year changed it's tune and wants the guide lines for homosexuals changed. If they are so indebted to the Christian right why the change or heart? The Christian right doesn't seem to have moved so why would they?
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    Jun 20, 2007 8:48 PM GMT
    I can't imagine it has anything to do with the growing number of colleges and universities that are no longer allowing the Red Cross on campus due to their anti-gay policies. But who knows, I worked to bar RCA for my school, but that was in 2005. They could have changed by now.
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    Jun 21, 2007 1:55 AM GMT
    I tried to donate blood one time at school. It was about 3 years ago. I had a hour to kill so I thought what the hell, I get a free pizza. So I got onto one of the buses and filled out the paperwork. Then went into one of those small screening rooms, and the lady asked me if I have ever had sex with a man. Of course I told her yes, and then that was it. She left the room for a minute then came back. She said I couldn't donate because I have had sex with a man. I felt awful.

    I tried to ask her why and all she could give me was a number to call and that was it. So I got my cupon for my pizza and left. So I called the number when I got home and asked why I couldn't donate. The lady on the phone said according to the FDA, I was a high risk! I was like WTF! I don't sleep around and at the time I had been a committed relationship for about 2 years. And we had both been tested and came out negative.

    I thought, well if I am honest enough to tell you that I have sex with men, I think I could be honest with how many partners I have had and when my last HIV test was. It is just one big stereotype that all gay men are sleeping with everyone and and doing unprotected. I just was pissed. After all you hear about the blood shortages during the holidays that they are willing to deny someone who is gay and sleeps with a man, from donating blood.

    I just pray and hope that nothing happens to anyone of my family members or my dearest friends where they need blood and deny me just because I have sex with my partner. What is this world coming too.

    And I didn't get that pizza. They could shove it up their ass. =P
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    Jun 21, 2007 3:54 AM GMT
    Mntclimber tell me more. Which colleges and universities? And is that something the schools could really hold up after the supreme court has ruled that they can't bar the military from recruiting because of their don't ask don't tell policy?
    While I admire your aim, I'm troubled by the tactics. What is your main concern here? Is it the discrimination or the saving of lives? Yes, it is ignorant and discriminatory that you are forbidden to give blood forever after having homosexual intercourse, but the blood does save lives. In my mind that is foremost, and I would still want others to give blood readily and easily, at schools or wherever whether or not I can give it.
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    Jun 21, 2007 4:58 AM GMT
    I thought the blood issue had long been gone when I went to give blood for the first time. I was reading through the requirements for giving blood while I sat on the bloodline bus waiting to have my blood drawn when I read that I couldn't give blood. I was shocked. I had helped so much to get people out to donate blood on my campus, and I couldn't even participate. I didn't bother saying anything; I just left. After this I was called several times by Florida Blood Services letting me know about nearby blood donations and thanking me for the blood I never gave. Each time I calmly explained that I was not allowed to give blood, and I told each operator why. Oddly enough, the operators were "shocked" and said they would "make note" of this for the higher-ups. I'm not sure they were really shocked, or ever cared to tell anyone.
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    Jun 21, 2007 7:20 AM GMT
    The backlash streams forth:

    at the risk of receiving a ton of backlash from you guys...isn't the blood supply something that is too precious to have at risk? Blood screening is NOT fool proof - and even if it was - there is HUMAN error. Like the times that a properly labeled blood-type is inadvertently given to a patient. I don't know that it is as much discrimination as paranoia and I don't think even that is the right word...or simply a tough call being made to protect people, INCLUDING gay men! Just throwing that out there - take is as you will.


    The government organizations do not discriminate against others for their blood-borne possibilities, so why should they discrimate against homosexual men? It is discrimination, plain and simple.

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    Jun 25, 2007 9:50 PM GMT
    Hey there the same thing is happening in the UK. The National Blood Service refuses to shift on the position, we have recently received a response from the Secretary of State for Health after Downing St received a petition of tens of thousands of signatures:



    "The Government has a duty to ensure that any rules applied to blood donation by the National Blood Service (NBS) achieve a balance between risk reduction and security of supply. The self exclusion criterion concerning gay men has been reached through a close analysis of the epidemiology of confirmed HIV and Hepatitis B positive tests among blood samples from people donating blood at United Kingdom Blood Service sessions.

    The Government has been advised that every year from the analysis of nearly three million donations collected by the United Kingdom and Irish Blood Services, about 40 donations are confirmed to be positive for HIV. Of these, a third to a half are given by men who, following further enquiries by the NBS, reveal that they are gay men. Some are donating for the first time but some have given at least once in the previous two years and tested negative on the previous occasion. These figures indicate that some gay men are still giving blood in spite of the current rules.

    Although safer sex campaigns have had an impact, it is still considered that the risk of gay men being infected with HIV remains sufficiently high to include the criterion that they should not donate blood. Unfortunately, this means there will be healthy gay men who would be suitable for giving blood but who are excluded by the rule.

    However, it is not practical to expect donor session staff to be able to differentiate between gay men with lower or with higher risk lifestyles, so all gay men have to be excluded. "


    (http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page11729.asp)



    I am in the process of writing to my MP about all of the things wrong with this reply!

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    Jun 27, 2007 4:34 PM GMT
    wrerick, et al..

    Yes, I undestand that to make an omlette you have to break a few eggs. Totally, that makes complete sense. Just like how we HAD to have genocide happen on the scale that is did in the 1940s before we enacted global laws against it (laws that are not followed by ANY stretch of the imagination).

    You're right, barring a groups such as the ARC from a college blood drive may sound counter-productive, however, there are SEVERAL other organizations that accept blood and have not openly supported the ban in the last decade or so.

    As for the testing... maybe instead of saying that yes there is a problem and we as gay men are ok with being discriminated against, we should look at the real probelm. Not enough gay men use condoms other protection (i.e. abstinence). Maybe, once we change the behavior of our own culture we will be able to change policies meant to disclude us from society?
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    Aug 07, 2007 1:41 PM GMT
    I think I will go to my local blood bank, act like a complete raging mary, and then claim I never had sex with another man and see if they let me donate. Good times.
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    Aug 07, 2007 2:30 PM GMT
    Great letter.

    Unfortunately there IS a lot more disease among gay men, so while you can challenge statistics, and hopefully at least have them change the requirements (while still flawed, a much fairer set of blood donation criteria would limit donations based on number of sexual partners).

    I'm sure a few folks have seen my tirades about having been followed down the street last year by a gay activist passing out leaflets on free hepatitus vaccines. I'm sure these people assume they are working for a good cause, but to *assume* that a person is sexual active, and try to force them to accept your literature, is pretty obnoxious. How do you suppose this activity would have been received at, say, the Puerto Rican Day parade, or St. Patrick's Day?

    As I have said in other threads, the housekeeping needs to start at home.