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Blood Donation Policies

Blood Donation Policies

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Why LGBTQ+ People May Not Be Able to Donate Blood 

By Brooklin Painter

Blood donation in the United States has become more important now than ever before because of a national blood shortage. Every donation can save up to three lives, yet not everyone is permitted to donate. [1] 

According to the U.S. Department of Health, you may not be able to donate blood if you have an “acute fever, are pregnant, had recent alcohol intake, or any transmissible disease such as Hepatitis B and C, HIV infection, AIDS, and STD.” [2] 

According to the Food and Drug Administration, “Men are not allowed to donate blood if they have a history in the last 3 months of sex with another man.” In August 2020, the FDA revised this policy from 12 months to three months to help maintain blood supply during COVID-19. [3] 

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are not allowed to donate specifically because of the risk of transmissible diseases in the blood. This is supposed to help ensure the safety of blood donors and recipients, but since every unit of blood is thoroughly tested, why are gay and bisexual men still banned from donation? [4] 

The FDA noted that even though all blood donations are tested for transmissible diseases, there still is not a 100% guarantee that the tests are accurate. Therefore, to ensure blood recipient safety, no MSM are permitted to donate. The FDA reasoned this by saying it is because “gay and bisexual men have higher incidence of diseases.” [5] 

The guidelines on LGBTQ+ blood donations may have been loosened, but is it enough? Photo by Stanley Dai. (2016). Source: Usplash.com 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study in 2016 over the percentage of HIV infection in gay and bisexual males vs. heterosexual males. The study revealed that over half of those infected were gay and bisexual men. While this is true, the CDC reported that 298,700 heterosexual males out of the 947,200 male population were infected with HIV as well. [6] 

A common stereotype about HIV is that only LGBTQ+ people can contract the infection. This is not factually true and has been proven wrong. Anyone who is sexually active can get infected, no matter your sexual orientation or identity. [7] 

See Also

Is the FDA’s policy violating the rights of LGBTQ+ people? If so, many could view this as discrimination towards the community. 

The American Red Cross spoke up about their beliefs on MSM blood donation. They announced, “The Red Cross recognizes the hurt this policy has caused to many in the LGBTQ+ community and believes blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation.” The Red Cross states that they are working on achieving this goal, but currently cannot change the MSM deferral policy. [8] 

Further progress has not been made in changing the blood donation guidelines. The LGBTQ+ community continues to fight these rules through events like the National Gay Blood Drive. If all LGBTQ+ blood donations were accepted, they could hypothetically stop the national emergency blood shortage. But would this endanger future lives, or potentially save thousands more? [9] 

References 

  1. Watts, K. (2021, March 8). What you need to know about blood donation. Bloodworks Northwest.  https://www.bloodworksnw.org/donate/need-to-know  
  1. What are the reasons why a person cannot donate blood? (n.d.). Department of Health.  https://doh.gov.ph/node/1436 
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, August). Revised recommendations for reducing the risk of human immunodeficiency virus transmission by blood and blood products. Food and Drug Administrationhttps://www.fda.gov/media/92490/download 
  1. Blood donations and the LGBTQ community. The Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). https://www.hrc.org/resources/blood-donations 
  1.  Ibid 
  1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). CDC fact sheet: HIV among gay and bisexual men. The CDChttps://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/factsheets/cdc-msm-508.pdf  
  1. The Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Debunking common myths about HIV. Human Rights Campaign.  https://www.hrc.org/resources/debunking-common-myths-about-hiv  
  1. The American Red Cross. (n.d.). LGBTQ donors. Blood donation eligibility for LGBTQ: Red cross blood services.  https://rcblood.org/3nzTLUf  
  1. Across America Blood Donation Event. (2019, May 3). Gay blood drive.  https://gayblooddrive.com/
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