Gay blood donors

A fact many may not know: Men who have had sex with another man are not allowed to donate blood.

The policy has been in place since the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, when health officials banned any man who has had sex with a man, even once since 1977, from donating blood for life.

Today, Sen. Patty Murray joined other senators in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services voicing support for a new pilot study reviewing the policy that bans gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

According to Murray, the pilot study will assess alternative blood donor deferral criteria for men who have sex with men.

“In the 27 years since (the policy was enacted), we have seen vast advances in blood screening technology, policy changes in other nations, and staunch opposition from the nation’s blood banks who have called the current ban ‘medically and scientifically unwarranted,’” according to the letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

While gay and bisexual men are banned, the FDA allows a man who has had sex with an HIV-positive woman to give blood after waiting only one year, the letter said.

“This double standard is inconsistent and indefensible. Our current policies turn away healthy, willing donors, even when we face serious blood shortages,” according to the letter.

In other news: I received a press release today from the American Red Cross.

The headline?

“Blood supply at critically low levels. Red Cross needs donors now.”

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