In the wake of the horrific shooting in Las Vegas over the weekend, many of us derived hope from the fact that hundreds of volunteers lined up for blocks at blood banks to donate blood to survivors. However, sexually active gay and bisexual men were excluded from donating, sparking outrage over the FDA's policies about blood donations from men who have sex with men.
After the shooting, plenty of people, including NSYNC's Lance Bass, expressed their frustration about not being able to donate blood.
"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science," AMA board member Dr. William Kobler said in a statement to ABC in 2013. "This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone."
In 2015, the FDA finally lifted the ban — with a catch. Gay and bisexual men can now donate blood, but only if they have abstained from sex for 12 months. While it represented a bit of progress, activists were quick to point out that it was still a discriminatory practice that further spread "stigma, fear, and discrimination."
Not only does the blood ban bring up issues of discrimination, it also puts lives at stake that could be saved by greater blood donor eligibility. According to a 2014 report from the UCLA Williams Institute, lifting the ban on gay and bisexual men could save 1.8 million lives a year.
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