One of the side effects of folks staying at home to ride out the pandemic is that they’re not going out and donating blood. The LGBTQ community is willing to step up and help with the blood shortage but unfortunately, they’re effectively barred from it.
NBC News reports that GLAAD has created a petition for the Food and Drug Administration to roll back its current guidelines for donations by gay and bisexual men. The current rule states that gay and bisexual men must not have sex for 12 months before they are allowed to donate blood.
From NBC News:
The petition was released after Surgeon General Jerome Adams called upon Americans to give blood following reports from the Red Cross that 2,700 blood drives had been canceled over the past month after the coronavirus began spreading across the United States. As of March 16, those cancellations had resulted in 86,000 fewer donations, potentially decimating the U.S. blood supply.
You might think that the rule is a leftover reaction from the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but no. The rule was actually established in 2015, a step up from not letting gay and bisexual men donate at all. While gay and bisexual men make up 70 percent of new HIV diagnoses, advances in testing have made it detectable within a week’s time. The American Red Cross themselves have asked the FDA to reduce the abstinence period to three months. The FDA has said “nah.”
“The overwhelming majority of people aren’t going to be celibate for a year,” Jason Cianciotto, the senior managing director of institutional development and strategy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, told NBC, adding that risk-based screening is intended to focus on any “behavior you may have participated in that would put you at high risk for contracting HIV.”
It’s inherently unfair. A straight man can be as promiscuous as they want to be but a gay man has sex once and can’t donate blood. It also doesn’t account for risk. If someone is out having unprotected sex with different partners, maybe take some precautions on taking their blood. If someone is in a committed relationship and is having safe sex with their partner, I don’t see why they can’t donate blood.
The fact of the matter is, we’re in a crisis. The easiest way to get through it is to change our way of thinking and most importantly, get rid of these systemic biases. If people are willing to help, there is no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to.