United States

San Francisco Supervisor Calls to Remove Ban on Blood Donations by Gay and Bisexual Men

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced a resolution at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday calling to end the ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.

The resolution comes after the shootings in Orlando. Even as donors waited in long lines to help the victims, many gay men were unable to donate blood. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration forbids donations from men who have had sex with a man in the previous year.

“In the face of heartbreaking tragedy like what we experienced in Orlando, there is so little we can do to help the victims,” Wiener said in a statement. “I would have loved to have been able to do my own small part to help our brothers and sisters by donating blood.”

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. is in need of blood and the FDA has turned away donors - specifically gay men - based on their sexual activity.

The rule originally stated that a heterosexual woman who has had sex with another woman could give blood after waiting a year, but a gay man who’s been celibate since 1978 is banned. The FDA originally enacted the rule out of fear that AIDS would spread if they allowed gay men to donate blood.

In December of 2015, the FDA lifted the lifetime ban against gay men donating blood, but kept in place a prohibition on donations from any man who had had sex with another man in the last year.

“Unfortunately, our country’s archaic and discriminatory blood ban policies prevented so many of us from being able to even do just that,” Wiener said.

Wiener is hoping to gain support to change this FDA rule and allow gay men to donate blood when there is a time of need. Organizations like the American Medical Association, the Human Rights Campaign, the AIDS Research Institute at UCSF, the American Association of Blood Banks, and the National Gay Blood Drives all support lifting the prohibitions.

“The FDA needs to change these rules now,” Supervisor Wiener explained.

The FDA would not respond for comment but will continue to review and monitor changes to ensure blood safety. 

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