It’s Time For The Discriminatory Gay Blood Donor Ban To END!

Recently in the United Kingdom Dij Bentley’s mother died last August from acute myeloid leukemia. Prior to her death, she developed an infection that required a blood transfusion.  Family and friends were asked to donate blood in hopes they would be a match. Wanting to help his dying mother, Mr. Bentley tried to donate blood but was turned down because he is gay even though his mother acknowledging in a waiver that she was aware of the risks. Denied the transfusion she died ten days later from an infection.

On the subject, Mr. Bentley stated:

“My eyes have been opened to this since my mum died. Maybe gay men do have a right to give blood if they want to. Certainly for me, who was in a monogamous relationship, I think it would have been acceptable in these circumstances.”

Here in the United States, since 1985, gay men have not been able to legally donate blood  This policy was instituted by our government in the earliest, most fearful days of the AIDS epidemic. When so little was known about the disease, reactionary officials instituted the ban as a way to ensure the nation’s blood supply would remain ‘clean.’

In the past 25 years due to education and modern science, we now know much more about the spread of HIV than we did in 1985. Truly, this ban is unnecessary and outdated. Donated blood is screened thoroughly between the time it is donated and when it is used for medical procedures. Technology easily helps us catch any tainted blood before it can be given to someone in need.  But also the demographical statistic’s have changed of people who are living with AIDS in America and as of this time there is no longer any specific scientific or logical reason to ban gay blood donors. Even the three major U.S. blood donation agencies, the American Red Cross, the American Association for Blood Banks, and America’s Blood Centers have found that the lifetime blood donation ban on men who have had sex with men is medically and scientifically unwarranted.”

Logically now the ban makes no sense.  In the most recent data available African American and Hispanic communities have been disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS in America. Despite their smaller share of the general population, more African American people have been diagnosed with AIDS than white people, and they are far more likely to be diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. During 2007, 50% of all new HIV diagnoses and 42% of new AIDS diagnoses were in African Americans yet which comprise around 13% of the population.  Also the CDC estimates that currently 44 percent people of Americans living with AIDS in the United States as of this time are African American.  But there is no ban om African Americans giving blood and there never will be.

Banning gay men from donating blood is not preventing HIV transmission, it’s just fostering stigmatization, discrimination and stupidity. And this comes at a time when blood supplies continue to dip to dangerously low levels.

Italy and Spain have intelligently replaced their bans on gay blood donation with a ban on anyone gay or straight who has unsafe sex.  Even Russia has repealed a six-year ban on gay blood donors. And it is now time that other countries, specifically the United States and the United Kingdom follow suit.  Not only for equality but for the greater good of public health.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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