In December, the Food and Drug Administration announced its intention to ease the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood. In the ban’s stead, the agency plans to adopt a new policy that would allow men who have sex with men to donate after a 12-month period of celibacy.
The AIDS service organization GMHC lambasted the proposed policy as “offensive and harmful,” claiming that the furtherance of “stigma, fear and discrimination” only helps fuel the disease’s spread. “In reality,” the organization said, “requiring celibacy for a year is a de facto lifetime ban.”
In the summer of 2014, the American Medical Association adopted an official stance of opposition to any restrictions on MSM donors. Citing the efficiency of modern science — which can detect HIV as quickly as nine days after infection — the AMA found the FDA policy adopted in 1983, when knowledge of the disease was scant, unfounded.
If the policy is adopted, the United States would join countries like Australia and the United Kingdom, which also operate with a one-year deferral. It would also mean MSM and women who have sex with them would be subjected to the same treatment.
However, looking to countries like Chile, South Africa, Mexico, and Russia, all of whom have completely lifted restrictions on MSM blood donors in the past few years, the GMHC has reiterated its call for a “system that screens all donors — gay or straight — based on whether they engage in high-risk practices that could lead to HIV infection.” After all, the statement says, “HIV is transmitted by what you do, not who you are.”