Why Is There A Ban On Blood?

Doctors looking at a bag of blood

Did you know that there is currently an FDA ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men?

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The FDA bans blood and bone marrow donations from any man who has had sex with another man at any time since 1977. According to the FDA, men who have sex with men (MSM) made up 61 percent of new HIV infections in 2010, and although the overall HIV rate was stable from 2008 to 2010, the rate of infection increased 12 percent among MSM while the rate in other populations decreased.

While blood collection agencies screen all donations for specific disqualifying conditions, including HIV, they do acknowledge that there is a period when individuals could be infected without the disease being detectable in their blood. While many doctors previously supported the ban, they now feel that the rationale for the ban has diminished due to improved testing.

Others see the FDA’s current policy purely as discriminatory. A gay man, who participated in the blood drive and was turned away because of the regulations, contended that the policy kept him from helping others, including his own friends. He cited an incident two years ago when he discovered the policy as he tried to get tested as a bone marrow donor for a friend suffering from a blood disease. The man described how weird he felt having to choose between being honest or helping a friend.

An FDA statement noted that the agency was studying the regulations and would discuss its findings in the future.