Advisory Committee Upholds Ban on Blood Donation by Gay and Bisexual Men
The federal Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability ruled on Friday to uphold the long – standing ban preventing gay and bisexual men from donating blood. CNN reported that the policy faced review thanks to pressure from a group of 17 senators, led by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Despite the senators' efforts, the ban was upheld by a committee vote of 9 to 6, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Progressive groups joined the senators in their criticism of the policy. In a release, the ACLU quoted James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project as saying "Eligibility for donating blood should be based on scientific evidence, not stigmatizing and outdated stereotypes…We know that many straight people have HIV. If the existing screening methods are sufficient to protect the blood supply from straight people with HIV, then the government needs a really good reason for having a different rule for gay and bisexual men. It's not clear that it does."
According to The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law said that by completely opening up donation to gay men, 219,000 more pints of blood would be available a year.
Currently, any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 is banned from donating blood regardless of their detailed sexual history or HIV risk assessment The ACLU argues that treating gay or bisexual men differently than heterosexual individuals has serious constitutional concerns, and points out that this type of policy pays no recognition to high risk or safer sex practices. The policy ignores individual practices like condom usage, and quantity of partners one has, and the types of sexual activities one engaged in.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the Committee did acknowledge that the policy is "suboptimal." The Committee recommended certain steps to create a more nuanced policy in the future, and remains open to changing the policy upon further study.
Media Resources: ACLU 6/10/10; The Williams Institute 6/10; ACLU briefing 6/8/10 Los Angeles Times 6/12/10; CNN 5/26/10