Since the mid-1980s, the Red Cross — with FDA support — has prohibited men who have had sex with men, at any time since 1977, from donating blood.
That’s right — 1977. Twenty-eight years ago. This prohibition remains in place despite the testing that is already done to ensure that blood is uninfected. FDA medical officer Andrew Dayton estimated that, if 62,300 U.S. gay men were permitted to donate blood, 1.7 additional units of infected blood would slip past screening and enter the public blood supply.
As far as I can tell, no comparable review was done to determine the number of infected units that slip past screening because the Red Cross permits donations by nonmonogamous heterosexuals.
The Red Cross/FDA policy has occasionally prompted me to wonder whether the organizations are afraid of AIDS — or “gay” body fluids.
This concern rose anew last week, when media such as the Southern Voice reported that the FDA will advise U.S. sperm banks to prohibit anonymous donations by gay men who have had sex in the past five years. The recommended ban ignores whether a given man practices monogamy, uses condoms, or tests free from infection both before and after the donation.
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association announced, in a May 16 press release:
“The FDA’s published opinion in last year’s Draft Guidance Document that clinics should not allow men who have sex with men, even those in monogamous relationships, to make non-directed sperm donations ignores good science and good sense,” Joel Ginsberg, GLMA Executive Director stated. “And the fact that the FDA recommends no such barriers for men who exclusively have sex with women — regardless of their number of partners, use of condoms or knowledge of their partners’ HIV status — makes no sense.”
By doing nothing to discourage unsafe sex among heterosexual men, the FDA recommendation seems to actually increase the risk of HIV infection among heterosexuals.
News of the FDA action leaves quite a few questions unanswered:
Are Red Cross and federal officials afraid of HIV — as they should be — or are they afraid of gay sperm creating children with a potential biological inclination toward homosexuality?
And if gay men are banned, then will exgay men who remain sexually active with men also be banned from anonymous sperm donations?
And who, among either gays or exgays, is more likely to be honest with sperm banks about their sexual activities for the past five years?