The FDA Lifts Its Ban On Blood Donations From Gay Men — With A Catch

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
Today, the FDA announced that it will reverse its 32-year-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, which was implemented in response to the AIDS crisis and has been criticized for years by such organizations as the American Medical Association and Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC). But, there's a catch. Starting next year, gay and bisexual men will be able to donate blood if they first abstain from sex with men for at least 12 months.

So, this reversal marks only partial progress, according to gay rights advocates who point out that it's not who you are but what you do that determines your risk for HIV. "The FDA should update the Donor History Questionnaire so that all potential donors are screened for high-risk behavior, regardless of sexual orientation," argues GMHC. "Only prospective donors determined to be high-risk should be subject to deferral periods."

It's not only the rights of gay and bisexual men at stake in this debate, but also the lives that could be saved by a greater expansion of blood-donor eligibility. A report released last year by the UCLA Williams Institute estimated that lifting the ban on men who have sex with men would add 360,600 men to the blood-donor pool; together, they could donate 615,300 pints. Since each donation can be used to save three patients' lives, those 615,300 pints represent the ability to save 1.8 million lives per year. While the U.S. is not alone in its new 12-month deferral policy (the U.K. and Australia have the same), advocacy groups will continue to push for a policy that reflects potential donors' health risks, not their identities.

More from Body

Summer is over (for real). So it's time to face the facts: You're going to get a cold. Actually, you're probably going to get colds — plural. The average ...
The pelvic exam — complete with the stirrups and the speculum — isn't anyone's favorite thing about having a vagina. But it's really important because it's...
A few years ago, two Michigan urologists noticed a curious pattern among their patients: Upon returning from a Disney World vacation, patients would ...
Pregnant women get a lot of advice about motherhood, even when they don't ask for it. And in the first episode of Expecting, from Refinery29's comedy ...
It shouldn't be this complicated, all this body stuff: size discrimination, weight bias, the multi-factioned movement fighting to reverse it. At its core ...
On principle, I am skeptical of any internet health recommendation that has the word “challenge” tacked on to the end of it. These wellness fads come and...
Although he had been dead for decades, Jim Morrison said something a few years ago that shocked people. He wasn’t speaking from beyond the grave, but in ...
(Paid Content) Stress sweat is different from regular sweat in that it feeds off bacteria and causes odor. Then you start to think about it — producing ...
In April, I ran a story called “The Medium-Sized Woman Problem.” The “problem,” of course, was not the women themselves, but the way in which we frame ...
Jill Krause writes about all things mom, parenting, and relationships at her blog, Baby Rabies, and she has some words of advice for the non-pregnant ...
Let me introduce you all to the love of my life, Sienna Harper Gernon! I've never felt love like it! @justchrisgernon thank you so much, you have been...
Ragazzi mi state seguendo in tanti e vorrei ringraziarvi e scusarmi se non riesco a rispondere a tutti...vi proprio ho una foto che mi ricorda tutte ...
Update: Kopp's original Facebook post has been removed, and, as Shape reports, the chances of contracting an infection so severe that draining is ...
Breast-feeding has numerous benefits for both mother and baby, but it doesn't always come as naturally as we might assume. And, as one viral photo shows, ...