Gay Men Who Can't Get Laid May Soon Get to Donate Blood


Sadly, tests for cooties still remain theoretical due to lack of research funding.
Credit: cesarastudillo / photo on flickr

The United States has some pretty harsh guidelines for blood donations if you're a gay or bisexual male: Don't. The current policy is that if you are a man who has had sex with another man since 1977, you are not permitted to donate blood, ever. The policy was put into place in the early 1980s, a remnant of a time where we were a lot less knowledgeable about the spread of HIV/AIDS and less certain about testing accuracy. But nowadays, though gay men are still in the highest HIV risk category in the United States, we know a lot more about detecting HIV and preventing it from getting it into the blood supply. There's no longer a purpose for a blanket ban of all gay men. After all, according to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) guidelines, heterosexuals who actually have sex with somebody HIV positive or with a prostitute only need to wait a year, as do, mystifyingly, women who have had intercourse with bisexual men, even though the men themselves are permanently banned. Read a current donor questionnaire here (pdf).

But despite a lot of pressure from gay activists over the past 20 years to change this policy, it has stubbornly stuck. The FDA acknowledged a few years back that these policies shut out some low-risk donors while possibly not actually screening out some high-risk behaviors well (because it seems to be focused on rate of transmission among demographics rather than level of risk). But still no changes have been made.

But yesterday a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services a panel voted to recommend a change that would put gay men on par with the other folks mentioned above. Rather than being permanently banned, gay men and bisexual men would be able to donate blood if they've been abstinent for a year. According to Bloomberg News, such a shift would match current blood donation policies in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

The FDA doesn't have to accept the panel's recommendation but they have expressed an interest in making changes, and the Red Cross endorses the deferral. For those who are curious as to whether there are gay men out there who have gone for a year without sex (perhaps watching How to Get Away with Murder, are you?), a University of California, Los Angeles study estimates we would see 185,800 additional donors. It's a gay romance meet-cute waiting to happen!