The Food and Drug Administration announced this morning that it would be lifting its ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. Well, kinda.
While the ban previously affected male donors who have ever "Had sexual contact with another male even once," the regulations have been loosened slightly, to allow men who haven't had sexual contact with another man in the last 12 months to donate. In a statement, FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg wrote that the changes will "better align the deferral period with that of other men and women at increased risk for HIV infection."
Well done, gays. This is one baby step toward striking down a discriminatory ban.
And let's just be clear here: The ban IS discriminatory. While other at-risk groups (intravenous drug users, sex workers, people who have had blood transfusions) have a 12-month deferral period like the one gays will soon face, there was no other blanket ban on an entire group of ostensibly healthy people.
The FDA introduced the ban on donations from gay/bi/DTF men back in the early 80s, at the height of the AIDS scare. Which is understandable, as there was a lot of confusion about the disease back then, and testing to see who had it was difficult.
But it's not the 80s anymore. Testing for HIV/AIDS is now incredibly easy. In June of last year, the American Medical Association announced that they opposed the ban, calling it "discriminatory" and "not based in sound science."
Unfortunately, I'm struggling to think of any gay or bisexual men I know who won't still be banned from donating. I guess I know a couple of men who experimented with a guy or two when they were younger and would now be free to donate. So congrats to you guys, I guess. Big win for you.
Under the new guidelines, my friend Adam, who has been in a monogamous relationship with the same man for the last eight years, is still banned from donating blood. But if someone were to, say, be filmed giving blowjobs to 24 strangers in exchange for a free drink, they would be free to donate as much as they want. Ditto anyone who took part in the world's largest gang bang (as long as they weren't paid for doing so.)
Earlier this month, 80 members of congress sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, after an advisory committee set up by the department recommended relaxing the ban, rather than overturning it completely. The letter suggested that the ban should be replaced by a "risk based blood donation policy" rather than one based on sexual orientation.
"[We] must embrace science and reject outdated stereotypes," they wrote.
In a statement, the FDA said they would issue a draft officially recommending the change in 2015.