In Their Own Words
All I Want for the New Year is a Chance to Give Blood: How Outdated Rules Restrict Gay Men from Donating
A Call for Policy Change
The following excerpt is from an op-ed that first appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer on December 27, 2022.
In the wake of landmark bipartisan approval of legislation to legalize same-sex marriage across the country, it is time to repair the policy that uniquely discriminates against a large group of men who want to give blood.
Some may be as surprised as I was to learn that the current rule discriminates against men who have sex with men. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently reviewing its policy, which began during the early days of the HIV epidemic, well before treatment for HIV was commonplace, and long before testing for the virus was as accurate as it is today. The agency is expected to update its guidance soon, with leading organizations such as the American Red Cross in support of needed changes.
As a physician, and a gay married man who has been monogamous for close to 17 years, I first confronted this antiquated legislation when my husband and I decided to do what we could at the beginning of the pandemic. At that time, there was a severe blood shortage, and we scheduled appointments to donate blood.
Only then did we discover that we needed to attest to being celibate for three months before being allowed to donate blood. We were shocked. I mean, our children may call us “old-school,” but they would never mistake us for monks. This policy had been in place since 2020, before which the FDA-sanctioned “deferral” time for men who had sex with men was 12 months of celibacy.
There was a time when this approach was justified. But not now.
Read the entire op-ed, here.
Kevin B. Johnson, MD, MS
Professor, Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Informatics and Pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine; Professor, Computer and Information Science, and Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science; Professor, Science Communication, Annenberg School for Communication
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