A critical blood shortage in the United States is no surprise, but can end up deadly for a patient who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. According to the Red Cross website (redcrossblood.org), the Red Cross has less than the recommended five-day blood supply available for emergencies and the need of patients every day. The other organization responsible for maintaining American blood supply, America’s Blood Centers, calls for support from donors, as blood is needed every 3 seconds.
All blood donation centers must follow guidelines set by The United States Food and Drug Administration- who in many ways is stuck in the “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency”-days of the 1980’s with their one-year deferment policy for men who have sex with men, even in monogamous relationship situations. To gain eligibility for blood donation, men who have sex with men must abstain from having sex for an entire year- meaning, men who are married to other men and are only intimate with their partner, must be celibate for an entire year before becoming eligible to donate blood, and must also maintain that celibacy to continue to donate. The restrictions placed on monogamous gay couples are among the same placed on heterosexual men who have unprotected sex with multiple individuals as well as intravenous drug users- without regard to proven HIV negative status. Policies such as these still stigmatize gay and bisexual men and exclude many healthy donors- only exacerbating the blood shortage dilemma. The time is up.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, every unit of blood donated in the United States undergoes testing for Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus, HIV 1 and 2, Human T-lymphotropic virus types I and II, Syphillis, West Nile virus, and Zika virus. An HIV antibody response can be detected as early as two weeks and in 99.97% of people by 12 weeks, which is just around 3 months. Countries like Canada and the United Kingdom have already implemented a policy that allows gay or bi-sexual men to donate just three months since the last sexual encounter with another male, citing that the change was “based on the most up to date scientific evidence and medical advancements, which will offer more people the opportunity to donate blood without affecting the safety of the blood supply.” If other countries have the means reform this policy, so does the United States- and the United States has HAD the means to do this for some time. To tell any person that has the capacity to save another that they are not allowed to goes against human nature.
It has become easier for an irresponsible person to buy a gun to end a life, than for a responsible person to donate blood to save one.
The one thing that makes us all the same is being used to keep some of us different. This policy only supports stigma, scientific inaccuracies, and blatant discrimination.