Last week, the FDA Blood Products Advisory Panel met to discuss the potential overturn of the FDA's longstanding ban on allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood. They chose to uphold this ban. This is an erroneous decision.
As Mother Jones notes, last month an entirely different committee convened by the Department of Health and Human Services approved a measure (by a 16-2 margin, no less) that would've allowed gay and bisexual men to donate blood if they'd been celibate for at least one year. Granted, the proposed measure would still have been regressive considering we have much more fast, accurate ways of testing for HIV/AIDS than we ever have before, and it would've still applied radically different standards towards men who have sex with men than towards anyone else (standards with a history of encouraging stigmatization towards gay and bisexual men). Still, it was better than nothing, very much like the Affordable Care Act compared to the actual system of socialized medicine the US would now be utilizing if +/- 50% of Congress wasn't made up of creatures Sam and Dean Winchester regularly eviscerate on Supernatural.
The 17 members of the FDA's Blood Products Advisory Panel, however, decided that the cause of treating gay and bisexual men with equality under the law was just about "policy and civil rights"* and that it was some sort of a contravention of sound science. This is an interesting assertion considering that the Red Cross, America's Blood Centers, and the American Medical Association all believe in a wholesale overturn of the ban (the Centers for Disease Control have, as far as I can tell, been curiously silent on the subject). Their stance is understandable considering our significant national blood shortage. There's also a ban on
organ tissue donations from gay and bisexual men which no one seems to be talking about, one which apparently applies, as per the linked story, even if relatives assert that the deceased was celibate. Like blood donations, we're suffering a massive tissue donation shortage.
The main issue with the ban has to do with its absurdly inconsistent application, as there are currently no FDA blood donation standards pertaining to heterosexual sex whatsoever, regardless of at-risk behaviors. A friend told me recently that when she went to donate blood some months ago, she informed them she'd had unprotected receptive anal intercourse with a man who had engaged in unprotected receptive anal intercourse with a man, and they expressed no issues whatsoever with her desire to donate.** This is perhaps unsurprising when one considers that the ban only came into existence in 1983 in response to the HIV/AIDS panic of the 1980's.
The FDA isn't beholden to their panel's decisions, but they also very rarely go against their recommendations. The panel didn't even elect to vote on the issue and didn't seem to be want to listen to arguments in favor of lifting or easing the ban, which is especially bizarre considering the decisive results of the DHHS panel. In the words of one person who presented to the panel:
"It was met with an alarming amount of resistance that I just didn't expect," said Ryan James Yezak, founder of the National Gay Blood Drive, who gave a presentation for the panel. He was taken aback by the claim that there's not enough research to determine whether loosening the ban on donations would pose a risk to the blood supply. "That's simply not true," Yezak told me. "There is evidence that supports moving to a one-year deferral, at the minimum."
Additionally, in what I am sure is a complete coincidence, the restriction on men who have had sex with men even once since 1977 sits just below the restriction for people who've used needles to take drugs on the FDA's guidelines, because as we are all doubtless aware, gay and bisexual men are so very comparable to drug addicts. There's heroin in them there cocks.
Clearly, the FDA's ban makes no sense whatsoever from either a scientific or ethical standpoint, and brings into question who exactly are the 17 supposed "experts" and "industry leaders" who make up the FDA's Blood Products Advisory Panel. All of the science involved points at the very least to a partial if not full overturn of the ban, and most of the major organizations directly affected by the debate have registered their support for an overturn.
I'd like to cordially suggest, with the utmost of the respect they so clearly deserve, that the FDA Blood Products Advisory Panel go fuck themselves, on account of being small, homophobic, logic-blind dickweasels.
Edit: This article originally stated that there was a ban on organ donations from MSM donors; this is incorrect, as there is a ban on tissue donations (tissue donations are overseen by the FDA, while organ donations fall under the auspice of another organization).
* Civil rights are a bad thing, now?
** In fairness, the Red Cross donation guidelines do state that this is not recommended (possibly just in the interest of fairness, since, as noted above, the organization officially opposes the ban), though the FDA still does not ban donations from these individuals.
Image via TAEWAFEEL/Shutterstock.