After The Heartbreak Of Her Gay Son’s Suicide, A Mom Endures A Shocking Insult From The FDA

AJ BettsSadly, the life of Alexander “AJ” Betts Jr. was too short and often painful. Born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, AJ endured several surgeries as a child to correct the problem, which include facial reconstruction. After coming out at his school in school, he was bullied, both for being gay and mixed race. Apparently, it became too much for AJ to endure. Last year, he committed suicide. He was just 16.

The only solace that his mother, Sheryl Moore, had was that AJ had decided several months before that he wanted to be an organ donor. “He spent his entire life trying to make people feel good,” Moore said.

Then the FDA stepped in.

The government agency was okay to have AJ’s heart, lungs, kidneys and liver transplanted. But not his eyes. The reason: AJ was gay.

“My initial feeling was just very angry because I couldn’t understand why my 16-year-old son’s eyes couldn’t be donated just because he was gay,” Moore told KCCI.

The agency wanted to know AJ’s sexual history. Had he had sex with another male any time in the past five years? Moore couldn’t confirm her son’s sexual activity, so Moore’s corneas weren’t used to help another person.

The FDA is still governed by guidelines established at the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic during the Reagan era, a time when the government was not notably gay-friendly. By contrast, heterosexuals can have slept with a sex worker or with someone known to be HIV-positive and be able to donate organs after just one year.

Blood donations are even worse, with a ban on any man who has had sex with another man even once since 1977. How much overkill is this? The standard test to detect HIV in blood donations can find the presence of the virus within four-and-a-half days of infection. 

The FDA continues to defend the indefensible, despite a call from the American Medical Association to change the policy on blood donations.

The approval of some of AJ’s organs for use but not his eyes underscores just how mindless the policy is. It’s impossible to conjure up a scientific reason as to why his eyes would be more likely to cause an HIV infection than his internal organs.

Meanwhile, another 14-year-old boy is alive because of AJ. The boy received AJ’s heart. “He would have really liked that,” Moore said.

Too bad someone else couldn’t have had their vision saved due to the FDA’s shortsightedness.

Photo credit: AJ Betts’ Facebook page


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  • DarkZephyr

    Heart breaking AND outrageous. :(

  • jd2222248

    So, the eyes carries HIV and the internal organs do not. I learned something today. :-)

  • tricky ricky

    seems to me to be a whole lot of complaining over nothing. all the important organs were accepted.

  • DarkZephyr

    @tricky ricky: You Sir are a horse’s backside. The fact that ANY part of him was rejected because he’s gay is ridiculous!


    @tricky ricky: I’m sure the person who needed that cornea to prevent eventual blindness thinks you are an idiot.

  • hyhybt

    @jd2222248: This is almost certainly based on (outdated notions of) relative rather than absolute risk. Someone needing a heart is much less likely to live until another donor is available than someone needing corneas.

  • LubbockGayMale

    To the gay men who agree with the FDA: if you won’t accept a transplant from a gay man, why would you kiss him???? Ludicrous!

  • hyhybt

    @LubbockGayMale: What gay men who agree with the FDA?

  • Chris

    @hyhybt: Heart but not the eyes? I guess your analysis makes sense by some strange sort of logic.

    However, that 1980s policy just makes no sense at all. Run a blood test and if someone who has had no history of HIV shows as negative, it makes no sense to turn down his/her organ donation.

    And even if someone is HIV+, has been on meds, does not show, and is donating organs — why not ask potential recipients if they are willing to take the risk and/or to spend the rest of their lives on HIV meds? If I’m going to die tomorrow and an HIV+ person is willing to donate what I need to live, why shouldn’t I be able to make an informed decision with an understanding of the relative risks?

    • hyhybt

      @Chris: I agree.

      There’s also supply and demand to consider. Maybe a lot of donors’ corneas are usable relative to those who need them, so they can afford to be pickier. (Perhaps more people are willing to donate them, or they’re more likely to be in good condition, or there are fewer compatibility issues, or there’s less need of them, etc. I say this only as a possibility to keep in mind, not as fact.)

Comments are closed.