Cornett: National gay blood drive seeks to end FDA donor banWritten by Rick Cornett | | CountryConnection@toledofreepress.com
Did you know gay and bisexual men are not allowed donate blood in the United States?
This ban dates back to the early 1980s when it was realized AIDS could be transmitted through blood transfusions. In 1983 the FDA instituted the ban and to this day any man giving blood must fill out a questionnaire that includes the question “From 1977 to the present , have you had sexual contact with another male, even once?”
If you are male and you answered yes to that question it is a lifetime ban from donating blood. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are on a short list of groups banned for life that includes those who have received payment for sex, intravenous drug users and those who have tested positive for HIV and other diseases.
Today many countries have donor restrictions similar to the United States, but because of recent medical evidence that could no longer be justified, the ban has been lifted in Canada, South Africa, Australia, Sweden, Japan, Russia, Mexico and other countries. Instead, these other countries have imposed a deferment window between having sex with another man and donating blood.
In the United Kingdom, where the deferment period is one year, there has been no reported HIV infection through blood transfusions since 2002. The FDA estimates that in the United States the risk of contracting HIV from a unit of blood is one in 2 million.
There is a constant need for blood and donors are essential in replacing the supply. On July 11, a nationwide blood drive will take place to bring attention to the ban and help save lives. Gay and bisexual men will show their willingness to contribute by bringing allies to donate in their place.
The local drive is headed by leader Brent Rabie and will take place at the American Red Cross Blood Donation Center, 3510 Executive Parkway, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 11. All participants will receive a T-shirt and are expected to sign a White House petition, fill out message to HHS/FDA and have a photo taken to be shared social media. For local information contact Brent at (419) 349-7205 or Brabie87@gmail.com.
Toledo is one of 50 cities taking part in the second annual national gay blood drive. The goal is to fill every blood donation appointment that day and have 100,000 people sign the White House petition across the nation to help lift the ban against gay/bisexual male donors.
If you would like to pre-sign up for an appointment to donate, call Chris Glanzman at the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio (419) 534-5013 and let her know this is for the National Gay Blood Drive. This grassroots effort to create change cannot happen with YOU!
Rick Cornett is an activist, promoter and historian for the Toledo LGBT community serving on the Holiday with Heart Charity Gayla and Toledo Pride committees.