The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has just made a significant advance against a policy regarded by many as homophobic: It reduced the period in which gay men can have sex before donating blood from 12 to 3 months.
The FDA decided that it was time to revise a policy that has been around since the AIDS era, when fear was more present in the minds of people than scientific knowledge. It was in this circumstances that the FDA placed a life ban for donating blood on homosexual men.
For decades since activists pushed to eliminate this ban, claiming that it was a discriminatory policy not based on science.
“ It’s easy to explain away these types of issues based on what people might believe is science, but when you are part of that community, it looks just like homophobia,” said Gregorio Millett to the Washington Post.
But as technology advanced and knowledge grew, things changed. In 2015, the FDA reduced the life ban to 12 months of abstinence, stating the following:
“Based on recently completed studies and epidemiologic data, the FDA has concluded that its current policies regarding certain blood eligibility criteria can be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply.” In other words, HIV screening mechanisms improved, and scientists were able to better detect it.
But pushback remained. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with signatures from 30 House Representatives and 17 Senators, sent a letter to the FDA asking them to revise this policy, arguing that its “not based on real science.”
The FDA agreed, announcing last month that the 12 months would be reduced to 3 months. The move came after a shortage of blood due to the cancelation of blood drives all around the country. While definitely a positive step for LGTBQ+ rights, it did make people wonder why it hadn’t been done sooner, and most importantly, why couldn’t the abstinence period be simply eliminated?
This is what organizations like Freedom to Donate and UNILAD is pushing for. Together, these two will open the Illegal Blood Bank on November 23 to protest the current restrictions. In it, medical professionals will asses HIV risks by asking about sexual activity, rather than sexual orientation. While the blood collected won’t actually be used, the point is to show how much healthy blood can be collected if we abolish an abstinence period.
The fight to end HIV era policies that discriminate against the LGBT remains, even in these difficult times. And while it may not be focused on by other outlets, Pride Palace will continue to inform you about every LGBT development!