A Half-Measure of Fail

The FDA is considering new rules on who is allowed to donate blood and when. Here’s a fun fact: did you know if you’re a man who has ever, at any point in your life, ever had sex with another man, you are barred from donating blood and plasma? It’s true. Why? HIV worries. To put this in some perspective, this means that the two other boys I had my “first time” with back in the mid-1980s are banned, for life, from donating blood.

Now as this article from Slate points out, HIV testing is easy, cheap and effective. It’s easy to hold off a few days on pushing the blood out into the supply lines while some testing is done, and if it isn’t already being done on all donated blood, it should be.

Thankfully, the FDA is considering changing the rules. The new rule would be that men who have had sexual contact with other men are allowed to donate blood…provided it has been at least a year since they had that contact.

So to recap. Under these new rules, you can hook up with HIV+ opposite sex partners every day for a year, have unsafe sex with them each time, and you’ll be allowed to donate blood with no restrictions. If, on the other hand, you’re in a homosexual relationship and you and your partner have been with only each other for over twenty years, and last had sex eleven months ago, and came up HIV- in a test done the prior week, well…too bad. No donating blood for you.

As Slate points out this is especially stupid when you consider other high-risk groups the FDA won’t ban from donating.

If the FDA is really committed to turning away groups of people who are statistically more likely to have HIV, they should at least start discriminating more consistently. Black people, for instance, have a much higher infection rate than whites; shouldn’t they be barred from donating blood? And non-monogamous straight people obviously risk greater exposure to HIV; shouldn’t the FDA copy South Africa and start blocking heterosexuals who’ve had a new sex partner in the previous six months?

Well-said. The FDA really should wake up and enter the 21st century on this issue. “Punish”, if that’s the word to use, unsafe sexual behaviors in everyone, and stop punishing people who engage in gay sex.


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