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!

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  1. But it's the blood that makes you gay.

    1. One-drop rule? [ducks]

        1. High Paisley?

      1. One-drop rule? Yes.
        Dropping the soap, even once, since 1977, bans you form donating.

        I give blood as much as possible, because as a non inked monogamous straight man, without cancer, I may be the only one left who can.

        Loosen the rules.

    2. I was gonna say, what about the risk that the blood is gonna give teh gayz.

  2. Maybe a monopoly on the blood supply isn't a great idea, either. Just thinking out loud.

  3. But what if it's just mouth sex? Or standing up sex? Everyone knows you can't get anything from either of those things.

    1. Or standing up sex?

      +1 shower fun

      1. Is it really? I always thought running water would make things a little unpleasant.

        1. Only if the hot water runs out.

        2. No, not at all. Like having sex in a hot tub or pool, it's not a problem. At least not in my experience.

          1. ... This changes everything.

          2. I found doing it in a pool was a bit of a problem due to the lack of leverage.

            1. That's what the handrails and ladders are for, dude. Or just do it on the steps.

              1. Best of all worlds?

                Plus you might score a GILF

                1. Those things leak.

                2. Yeah, and there's nothing more pleasant than getting in the tub first and then filling it up.

        3. The only problem I ever had was due to the size of my shower. I was living in a crappy small apartment with a tiny ass shower. There were...complications and a near concussion once.

          1. The main problem with shower sex that I found was that after a longer session, my lungs would feel raped from the heavy breathing in all that steam. It would feel really crappy for a while. Pool/hot tub sex has no such problem, and is therefore superior.

        4. It can be a bit awkward if you're facing each other, but that is easily fixed.

          1. I've learned so much this morning.

    2. Its not gay if they're drugged and tied up

  4. How is the increasing availability of same sex marriage going to affect this? It seems really odd to suggest that someone in a 5 year monogamous gay relationship in Massachusettes is more of an STD risk than a Havard student banging random coeds every weekend and claim that's based on anything other than your personal issues with homosexuals.

  5. And, 24/7 retires. Coincidence? I think not.

    1. 24/7's gay and has retired to donate blood?

    2. Nick told me it was going to be bigger than 'Angry Birds'-Meets-'Hot or Not'

    3. Was my perception of 24/7 (from the few times I perused its news feed) was that it attracted different commenters than H&R. Is this correct?

      Do I need to prepare for a mass of illegal immigration to H&R, now?

  6. The seeming extra prejudice against gay dudes aside, I've always wondered why people (anyone from gays to whoever else they exclude) care about not being able to give blood. Oh, I can't go down to a clinic, have my blood taken and get light-headed for an hour, and not get paid except with a cookie? Oh noes! I mean, other than thinking you've done something nice to help increase the blood supply, what the hell is the attraction of it?

    Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but people seem really into giving blood, and I just don't get it. Now, donating sperm: that I get.

    1. I don't get it either. Keep the needles away, fuck you very much.

      1. Apparently no one explained the 'cookie' euphemism to you, am I right?

        1. You mean Cookie isn't her real name?

    2. Donating blood can't get you hit with a paternity suit later.

    3. The "blood-mobile" shows up at my workplace as often as is safe for the same people to donate blood.

      Quite a few employees like the idea of getting out of work for 45-60 minutes while still getting paid.

    4. You're just upset that nobody wants your blood after they added that question about sexual contact with Warty.

      1. Why don't they want me?!? What's wrong with me?!? We all make mistakes! Just because I made mine...repeatedly...doesn't mean they can't love me!

      2. Thanks. Thanks a lot for THAT image.

        50cc of Mind Bleach, STAT!

        1. Don't judge Epi too harshly, dude. Everyone has sexual contact with Warty sooner or later, whether they want it or not.

          1. Some of us sooner rather than later.

          2. And whether they know it or not. Surprise sex, FTW!

    5. yeah, I don't get why you would want to be the unpaid participant in a commercial transaction like donating blood for someone to sell or taking surveys.

    6. When you're excluded as a class it makes you feel like a second-class citizen. Also, if you're the one guy who never gives blood at the office blood drive people ask questions. Etc.

      But, yeah, I've always taken the attitude that if my good isn't good enough for you, that's your problem.

    7. Hey a lot of times you get a cookie AND a t-shirt.

    8. Even a libertarian can want to help his fellow man.

    9. Try having sex a few hours after giving blood. It's amazing. I assume it's for the same reason that choking works, but less risky.

      1. Knock yourself out.

  7. Some of the criteria they use to determine who can or cannot donate blood is just ridiculous.
    One of the questions is whether or not you've gotten a tattoo or piercing recently. If you answer "Yes," they'll just ask a couple cursory questions about the cleanliness of the facility, and then you donate blood as per usual.
    If you know you don't have anything funky going on, why wouldn't you just lie?

  8. I'm a regular donor - if the screening is good I don't see a problem.

    Keep hoping for working synthetic replacement blood (seems to have been 'just around the corner' my whole adult life) - that would make all this moot.

    I've never had the will to sign up for marrow donation - hats off to those who do, 'cause it's a big hairy (lifesaving) deal.

    1. They have synthetic replacement blood; didn't you watch True Blood?

      (My god that series finale was terrible.)

      1. That last scene was like a Pinterest wet dream. "Guys, where do we put the Live Laugh Love centerpiece?" "Put it between the mason jar votives"

    2. Instead of developing synthetic replacement blood, maybe some scientists should look for something cheaper and simpler. Maybe chicken broth? Or root beer? Or that goo inside of Stretch Armstrong?

  9. The dilemma is that HIV has a 1 to 6-month incubation period during which infected persons will have no symptoms and will test negative for the disease - while still being contagious. Newer AIDS tests are able to detect a month or 2 earlier but are more expensive. Are blood centers willing to pay for the new tests?

    The % of gay men who are infected is too hot a topic to be measured so there is no calculating the % who may be newly infected - so the risks of this policy change are impossible to determine.

    1. "While every unit of donated blood is tested for the virus, there is an 11-day window in which current tests can't detect HIV in people who just contracted it, Kessler said in an interview before today's panel meeting. A one-year deferral would allow more than enough time for the virus to be strong enough to be detected. "

      1. Thanks for the clarification, Scott. I posted below before reading your response.

        Yeah, the gap between 11 and 365 days is pretty inexplicable.

        1. Wouldn't that make it that more expensive because they have to store it for a longer period of time? Just playing devil's advocate but maybe the marginal cost for storage isn't worth the squeeze for the extra donations.

          1. Yes, it would. And it doesn't store indefinitely.

        2. 11 days is not accurate. The undetectable incubation period various widely and can be as long as 6 months.

    2. Troubling - it sounds like maybe the screening CAN'T be 'good enough' - with the added joy that PC concerns will keep people from stating that, if it's their honest conclusion.

      I really think significant risk of harm/disease/death ought to trump PC - but there have been so many exceptions I guess that makes me a bad person.

    3. I'm pretty sure if the tests can't detect it you're not contagious. But, yes, there is a 1-6 month window between exposure and detectability.

      Also, the fact that AIDS is now controllable with a pill-per-day regimen might have something to do with this. Also the same pill-per-day regimen is effective at preventing the exposed from developing infections.

      1. Nope. The test detects antibodies not the virus itself.

        Wide variation on how long it takes an individual to start producing the antibodies - up to six months. But you are contagious almost immediately after being infected.

        1. Thanks for clarifying. Trying to do a buch of other stuff today and the words not coming...

      2. I'm sure that will be a comfort to those that inevitably get it from this change in policy

        How much do those pills costs?

        Is being PC and not hurting someone's feeling really worth the price tag? Even if you argue that it won't cost lives, it's sure as hell going to cost money for all the AIDSs drugs infected people will have to use. Not to mention the lawsuits.

  10. So... Is it the buttsex or the homosexuality that makes them ineligible to give blood? Some combination of both?

    1. Incidence of disease, especially AIDS, in the population - which is affected by the buttsex and the higher number of partners.

      'Yuck factor' keeps it out of discussion, usually - but apparently ruptured blood vessels in the anus and lower digestive track make for something of a disease pathway.

      There's a reason that proctologists tell you not to stick anything up there that's not medically indicated (and if you buy them drinks, they all have cool stories that will have you clenching like nobody's business...).

        1. Wow, an "it's not natural" argument. Damn, I thought those had gone extinct.

          1. Did not say that, although I can see where you might feel it is implied.

            Also, did I make an error of fact? If so, I invite correction.

            If you're going to go that way, you should recognize the additional risk and take it into account. Not doing so can hurt you.

            1. If you're going to go that way, you should recognize the additional risk and take it into account. Not doing so can hurt you.

              Awww, how cute, some clueless straight boy is lecturing me on AIDS-avoidance.

              1. Not at all.

                Based on your attitude, go for it!

                1. I was thinking more of my successful track record, which speaks louder.

          2. It's perfectly natural. Unfortunately so is dying from communicable diseases.

      1. I figure as long as it has a wider base than the rest of it, it should keep you out of the hospital unless you do something horrifically, terribly wrong.

    2. The homosexual buttsecks. The question specifically asks are you a man who has had sex with another man. So you could have unprotected buttsecks with a ton of women and still donate.

      1. Good to know!

      2. You do have some comprehension as to how HIV is transmitted during anal sex, right? You are aware the
        that female to male transmission is unlikely unless the male already has open sores?

        1. Per comments up thread, maybe not.

        2. You do have some comprehension as to how HIV is transmitted during anal sex, right?

          LOL, another clueless straight boy seeking to lecture a gay man about HIV transmission. (See 1:26 above).

          Buttsex is buttsex. And I didn't make up those screening questions.

          1. But in straight buttsex the man is automatically the top, so there actually is a difference.

            1. In gay buttsex a man is automatically the top, too. 😛

              As to straight sex, not always (or so I am told), but the strapon is incapable of becoming infected and the HIV only lives outside the body for fifteen seconds, so not much of a risk there.

  11. They also won't let anyone who lived in Great Britain in the late 80's donate. I guess they're still afeard of teh Mad Cow.

  12. If it makes sense to loosen the rules under the current understanding of medical technology and risk then loosen the rules. If it is being done to mollify group identity activists, then do not. Telling us gay activists are pushing for this raises suspicion it is the latter.

  13. Unfortunately, MSM (men who have sex with men) are more STD-tastic all round than non-MSM. Syphilis making a comeback in this cohort as well as drug users.

    1. That is what gay marriage is for: to force gay men into becoming monogamous. And whinny.

      1. "Whinny" is the noise made by horses; "whiney" is the noise made by SoCons. Just saying.

    2. They're able to distinguish straight people between the the guy who has only had sex with his wife for the last 30 years and the guy banging hookers. Why must gay men all be crammed into one monolithic category?

      1. Statistics, experience, and risk analysis, mostly. Why?

      2. What about lower class black women who have regular sex with I.V. drug users? Who will be their voice?

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