HHS Considers Revisiting Gay-Male Ban On Blood Donation

The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) is considering new criteria for blood donation for gay men, reports The Hill.

Currently, men who have had sex with other men (MSM) since 1977 cannot donate blood due to “higher levels of certain transfusion-transmissible infections” among that population, the notice explains. Members of Congress’s interest and increased accuracy among donor testing have made the department reconsider the ban.

“[T]he increased effectiveness of donor testing for [Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)], [Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)], syphilis and other infectious agents has greatly enhanced blood safety,” the department states in the notice, which will be published in the Federal Register Tuesday.

“As a result, questions have been raised about the need to continue an indefinite deferral of all MSM and whether there could be blood donation by MSM who may not be at increased risk.”

Right now, HHS is only seeking comments for a new pilot program—which would reflect the vast amount of new information about the disease science has gained since the original criteria were enacted, as well as more accurate and faster testing technology.  Those who met certain standards—say, a single same-sex encounter a given number of years ago—would theoretically be allowed to donate, with additional precautions in place.

Photo: HHS

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  • jeremy

    what about the rest of us who arent self loathing homos? this is why i do not give blood and i am not an organ donor. its so stupid to think that this isnt anything more then homophobia. str8 people can get aids too, so can cats YES cats. they should just stop asking for blood entirely if they think that pilot program really is gonna do anything.

  • Redsmas

    But all those diseases are more commonly transmitted through heterosexual practices.

  • Stephen

    I donate blood. I just lie. Comfortable? No. Moral? No. But, subversive? Most definitely. Fight the power!

  • Christopher Banks

    I know this is a very emotive issue for gay men because we are discriminated against in so many different areas of life, but the blood issue is more complex and does have some sound science behind it:

    We must be careful not to let a fight for our right to donate blood to be ethically greater than a transfusion patient’s right (which includes gay men also) to be protected from having a deadly virus injected into their veins.

  • matt

    Black women have a much higher rate of HIV than the general population also, what do you think would happen if you disallowed that group from donating blood?

  • Juan Lluís

    At a moment in time when marriage equality is reaching new heights, it is frightening to think how much further we have to go.

  • Rusk

    It’s important to know that The American Red Cross has advocated for changeing the rules for years. The current regulations were made at a time of fear and ignorance. Let’s get these studpid rules off the books!

  • Mrs. Robinson

    They don’t give me marriage rights so why in the world would I want to give straights my blood? If they can’t get enough straight people to donate, then screw ’em.

  • LandStander

    @matt: That is a good question, I do not know why black women are allowed to donate blood :o

  • Victor

    @matt: Is that really a proven fact? Can you please give evidence for this?

  • alejo

    I’m 19 and right from when I was very little I wanted to donate blood and organs especially my eyes. I hope that they get some brain and don’t deprive the ones in need.

  • DenverBarbie

    It’s idealistic maybe, but this policy would be changed in an instant if all MSM (forgive me for using such a clinical term) and supporters stopped donating. This Type O gal has been withholding, and will continue to do so.

  • JoeyO'H

    Oh, they want to take another look at this? Low on blood? Som we’ll take another look and call you when you’re needed. Fuck You! Funny how the ommission of blood donation only applies to gay men. Don’t dicuss this with Sherri Shepard, she does not get it. What about black women whose men are on the down-low which is a major problem in the black community. But they won’t discuss that since they don’t want to offend anyone in the black community. Am I sounding bitter? Yes I am. All the negatives only applies to the gays. What an ahmazing world we live in!

  • dc

    I am in higher education and there are regular blood drives on campus. They are usually community-service type activities supported by fraternities and sororities. The Red Cross will set up in the student union. Members of the fraternity will encourage people to give blood. When they ask me, I >>always<< make this point clearly and loudly. "I am a gay man. The Red Cross will not accept my blood because of the fear of infection even though I have been in a relationship with one man for 23 years. They will take blood from your straight friends though, even those who party every weekend, take drugs and have multiple sex partners. Just as long as they are straight." The majority of responses that I get are that they did not know this is the Red Cross policy.

  • Spike

    If they don’t want my blood, why would I fight to give it. Giving blood is not a civil right. I’m guessing if the racists in the south get get a way with it, they would pass
    legislation that would require keeping white and black blood separate. As long as if/when
    I need blood, I am not denied it based on sexual orientation, I’m ok with this policy.

  • owen

    @dc:They did not know it was Red Cross Policy because it’s not a Red Cross Policy, it is the nation’s policy, the Red Cross and any Blood Bank has to go by the rules of the regulating bodies in the Nation. You may not have been aware of this, as most are not, but as Rusk said, the American Red Cross has been pushing to have this changed for years now. They are perfectly aware that it is a foolish and fear based restriction, and perfectly aware that in general most gay men are more inclined to donate if they could. There is a massive blood shortage right now, and without blood people die every day. So next time you are at your Higher Education location with all those students and Red Cross staffers around please thank those who could donate and the staff for doing it and loudly lament that the USA does not allow this even though you have been in a relationship for 23 years…

  • matt


    “The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.”

    My point is that if it’s considered a legitimate precaution to exclude gays from donating blood due to our disproportionate HIV rate, why would it not be ok to exclude black women as well? I think excluding either group is unneeded and discriminatory, but what I’m trying to say is that if they disallowed black women from donating blood people would rightfully freak out, but when it’s gays being banned it’s considered not as big of a deal.

  • Aaron

    Wow, just so your all aware, this is a worldwide issue, yes here in Australia it is exactly the same policy, I assure you we scream this stupidity every day, don’t bother with local, the old ways of days gone by, world wide need to change ….. At the same time

  • Lisa C

    dont they check the blood anyways so who cares if they r gay or str8 just cuz some1 is gay dont mean they dont kno how to use a condom or get tested alot of str8 men dont use condoms or get tested blood is blood gay or str8 it dont matter just depends on the person

  • owen

    @Lisa C: The reasons for the questions they ask, which range from travel to the MSM questions are in place to protect not only the recipients of the blood products but the staff who have to handle the blood. Blood can carry an amazing amount of infectious diseases not limited to the sexually transmitted ones. While all blood is tested for everything, it is another check to protect everyone. That being said most of the questions and restrictions are based on science and statistics, the MSM issue is plainly not, which is the reason the Red Cross and most other Blood banks around the world want that restriction changed.

  • AnieLin

    They’ve been able to test blood for std’s for years. I don’t donate blood just because I’m a big baby when it comes to needles. I had a classmate who is gay try to donate his blood and they refused him because he’s gay. I never knew until that day that gays can’t donate. They were even turning down the lesbians, although there’s no body fluids being transferred between two women, usually. I always felt that it was stupid for them to turn down so many people just because of their sexual orientation. I know that they run std testing on all blood samples just in case. What’s been stopping them before now to do the same with the donors who are homosexual?

  • Ay

    I was denied from donating blood because I don’t talk. It’s ridiculous and humiliating that this kind of discrimination happened. I’m so sick of being silent while others walk all over me. I’m sick of having no voice.
    I’ve started a petition against my blood bank asking them to remove their discriminatory policy. I am asking anyone to please sign it:

  • Tackle

    @matt: posting a link to the CDC does not prove anything. The CDC lies all the time.
    All anyone has to do is type in, (The CDC lies about stats)and then take your pick. I could post about 25 links. But people need to do their own research.

    If anyone knew how the CDC came to the conclusion that Black women have a 15% higher HIV rate then White women, they would not be posting links trying to prove a point.

    The CDC is a branch of the government. And when has any branch of the government been truthful? Stats can be twisted and turned. And the agency that is in power, can make stats say “anything” they want.

    Here’s where that 15% number came from. Research of the ISIS study, involving 2,099 women in
    Newark and
    New York,city.

    Of these women, Eighty-eight% were Black. Twelve% were Latina: (does anyone see a problem here)???? The CDC is at it again. With there questionable statistical methodologies of oversampling of a “TARGET” population. With Black women being 88% of thoes tested, of course that rate will be 15% higher then White women. And the same questionable “oversampling” is done with Black man. But I’ll focus on THIS study.

    Researches found that 32 women were already infected with HIV but were unaware of there status. Within one year of joining, 0.24% of the women tested positive. That rate was five times times higher then the CDCs previous estimates of HIV rates of Black women in the America. And the CDC took this and happily ran with this. And gullible people who will NOT question anything the CDC spits out, will believe everything they print. Like it’s comming from the mouth of god.

    From this study also, the CDC came to the conclusion that the HIV rates of Black women in America were comparable to the general populations in many sub-saharan African countries.
    Including the Democratic Republic of Congo,(0.28%) and Kenya, (0.53.%).

    Many times stats are more of an indicator of power then of truth.

  • the other Greg

    The weird thing about this rule is that it only affects OUT gay men – even if they know for sure they’re HIV-negative – while the closeted types end up having incentives to lie about it and give blood anyway.

    Blood drives are often workplace-oriented, or centered on a group. There may be a lot of peer pressure to participate. At big companies I recall how there were even bribes (?) like time off. The only ones off the hook were me and the other known, out gay guys. Everyone else was pressured into the usual “100% participation.” (Working for a big company involves a lot of silliness, even if most posters here rave about the supposedly gay-friendly HR departments.)

    In practice, this meant that some young closeted or older bisexual married guys ended up lying about their “MSM” status. This isn’t just my “gaydar”: sometimes I knew for sure because I’d, uh, given them bj’s. (Sorry – I was a depressed, slutty kid back then, although I was very careful about HIV!) While it’s true there is zero HIV risk from being a top getting a blow job (& almost zero the other way, I was negative), I don’t know what else these guys were up to with other guys. Maybe not much, maybe something risky, maybe never getting tested. The point is they were MSM and therefore breaking this pointless rule.

    Even mutual masturbation with another man counts as MSM – despite the zero risk. As others point out here, with this rule you can be as slutty as you want as long as you’re heterosexual!

Comments are closed.