The world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer media advocacy organisation, GLAAD is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lift the ban on gay men donating blood.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, GLAAD has organised a petition, calling on the FDA to allow LGBTQI men to donate blood after the American Red Cross had to cancel 2,700 blood drives in the past month.
The petition comes after Surgeon General Jerome Adams announced that as of March 16, blood drive cancellations due to COVID-19 outbreaks had resulted in 86,000 fewer donations and a severe reduction in US blood supply.
Adams is calling on “millennials and Gen Z” to donate, as “blood centres are open now and in need of your donation.”
“One donation can save up to three lives,” he said.
The FDA does not allow men who have sex with men to donate blood if they’ve had sexual contact in the 12 months before donation due to concerns surrounding HIV infection.
CEO and president of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, said in a statement that now is the time to access every available avenue for medical support.
“The FDA needs to put science above stigma,” she said.
“Gay and bisexual men … want to give blood and should be able to contribute to help their fellow Americans.”
The FDA previously placed a lifetime ban in 1983 for men who have sex with men but changed to the 12 month deferral period in 2015.
This policy is also reflected in Australia, where men who have sex with men cannot donate blood in a 12-month window either.
Furthermore, this 12-month policy has occasionally been applied to transgender women, which only further proves the existence of its tone-deaf and outdated insinuations.
The petition iterates that the ban is not only scientifically inaccurate but also counterproductive for the current health climate.
“This antiquated ban is not only discriminatory but has been debunked by leading medical organisations for years,” the petition reads.
“The American Public Health Association has argued that the current ban “is not based in science but appears to be modelled after other countries’ choices and fears,”
“The American Red Cross has also spoken out against the ban, noting that “blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation.”
US Senator of San Francisco, Scott Wiener is an LGBTQI politician who also cannot give blood due to his sexual orientation. Wiener said in a statement that the FDA needs to depend on science and trust in rigorous HIV testing rather than its archaic policies.
“This blood shortage threatens lives,” he said.
“Yet, despite this emergency need, the FDA continues to take a non-science-based approach by irrationally excluding sexually active gay and bisexual men from donating.”
“The reality is that blood banks test all blood for HIV, and modern testing techniques are overwhelmingly accurate in detecting and discarding HIV-positive blood.
“We’re in a national and global healthcare emergency, and it’s all hands on deck. We need the FDA to take a science-based, rational approach to blood donation — and to end this discriminatory exclusion.”