Target: The Food and Drug Administration
Goal: Encourage an end to the current ban on blood donation by gay men
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced its intentions to take another look on its ongoing ban on blood donation by any men who have had sex with men since 1977. The ban stems from fears about the spread of HIV, an understandable risk. However, improved testing for HIV makes it nearly impossible for a donor to have the virus and not have it detected through screening: since these testing procedures went into effect in 1999, they have failed to detect fewer than one in one million HIV-infected donors. All donated blood is screened for HIV and various other diseases, which combined with screening questions should reduce the risk of infection sufficiently to allow all who wish to to donate safely.
Even the improved testing procedures don’t always catch HIV, which is why screening criteria exist. However, this particular criterion is discriminatory in that it turns away all men who have had sex with men, regardless of riskiness of lifestyle: a man who has been in a monogamous relationship with another man for his entire life is turned away along with a man who has had unsafe sex with many male partners. Additionally, approximately 75% of HIV-positive men who have sex with men are aware of their status.
The supply of donated blood for transfusions in the U.S. is at an all-time low. Encourage the FDA to save lives and end discrimination by revising or removing its lifetime ban on sexually active gay male donors starting now.
Dear Food and Drug Administration,
I am writing to you in relation to your ongoing reevaluation of the current lifetime ban on donation of blood by men who have sex with men. The ban (referred to as a lifetime deferral) has existed for three decades, and does not discriminate between men who have had multiple male sexual partners, men who perceive themselves to be heterosexual but who have once or twice had sex with other men regardless, and men who have been in monogamous relationships with other men for their entire lives. It was established before the very reliable testing which we currently use to detect HIV existed. These tests do not completely protect against the transmission of HIV and other diseases, making screening questions important. But those screening questions should discriminate based not on lifestyle altogether, but on riskiness of lifestyle.
As you reevaluate this policy, I hope you will find a way to end or edit this ban safely and carefully for the health of recipients and donors alike. In a time where the blood supply is at an all-time low, the blood provided by a revision of this policy could be key to saving a great many lives.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Flickr via newbirth35