Orlando Shooting

Orlando Pulse Shooting a Reminder That FDA's Gay Blood Donor Ban Is Incredibly Stupid

Federal government completely wrong about risks of gay men donating blood.


Richard Graulich/ZUMA Press/Newscom

In the wake of last night's horrific mass shooting at Pulse—a gay nightclub in Orlando—local hospitals are in desperate need of blood donors. More than 50 people were injured in the attack (another 50 are dead).

It's safe to assume that there are many members of the gay community who would like to do their part and donate blood. But technically, many of them can't. That's because of absurd and outdated guidance from the FDA, which prohibits gay men who have had sex with other men from giving blood.

The ban originated as a response to the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. Last year, the FDA relaxed the ban slightly: gay men are only prohibited from giving blood if they have had sex with other men in the past year. Needless to say, that still excludes a lot of people.

The guidance is completely illogical. It's technically unenforceable, for one thing: donors can simply lie about their sex lives. It also ignores the fact that lots of gay men are monogamous, and only engage in safe sex with a single partner. Heterosexual men and women who have had sex with multiple partners in the last year are not prohibited from giving blood, even though their sex is comparatively riskier.

The ban is also unnecessary. Donated blood is always tested for HIV, making the risk of an infected person passing on the disease via donation effectively zero.

Earlier today, Gawker reported that a local blood donation clinic had made the decision to ignore the guidance and welcome gay male blood donors. But that story was wrong: the clinic said on Twitter that it is still obeying the FDA:

"All FDA guidelines remain in effect for blood donation. There are false reports circulating that  FDA rules were being lifted. Not true."

More's the pity.

For Reason's complete coverage of the Orlando Pulse shooting, go here.