June 14th, 2010
11:57 AM ET

Ban on gay men donating blood upheld

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

A federal committee recommends maintaining the policy preventing gay men from donating blood in the United States, provoking disappointment and anger from gay activist groups.

The Federal Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability voted 9 to 6 against lifting the ban Friday. This committee makes recommendations to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Current FDA rules dictate that any man who has had sex with another man since 1977, even once, cannot donate blood. This rule has been in place since the early 1980s, when there were no tests in existence for identifying HIV-positive blood. Concerns about HIV tainting the blood supply prompted this policy, viewed as a safety measure.

Although the committee recommended keeping this policy, the group also called the rule "suboptimal" and suggested using criteria based on individual behavior instead of broad characteristics, such as men who have had sex with other men.

A report from the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law finds that about 219,000 more pints of blood could be available each year if the FDA lifted the ban. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force cited this figure in its response to Friday's decision.

"The committee's decision today not only leaves a discriminatory practice in place, it also puts lives at risk," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in a statement.

The American Red Cross also expressed disappointment about the decision, stating that "while the Red Cross is obligated by law to follow the guidelines set forth by the FDA, we also strongly support the use of rational, scientifically-based deferral periods that are applied fairly and consistently among donors who engage in similar risk activities."

Read more about this issue here.

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soundoff (277 Responses)
  1. john

    I'm a gay male and I give blood. Like many of my fellow gay men, I lie when they ask the questions. I get tested regularly for HIV and other STD's and I'm in a committed, monogamous relationship with a partner who also gets tested regularly, and at my last doctor's appointment my doctor said that my risk of contracting HIV was almost zero.

    I don't like to lie, but this is another example of being forced to lie because of being gay. If I want to join the military, I have to lie. If I want to get married, I have to lie. If I want to keep my job, I have to lie.

    Yes, it's true that gay men are in a high risk group, and if the policy were based on risky behavior I would be completely honest.

    If it comes down to being honest vs. potentially saving somebody's life, I'll be a little dishonest. It's an ethical dilemma–and it shouldn't be. I should not be forced to do something wrong (lie) in order to do what's right.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jason J

    How many of you even realize this same policy says that heterosexuals who have had sex with someone they KNEW was HIV positive are aloud to donate as long as it was over a year ago??? Now that right there proves this is strictly based on discrimination!
    Banning people only creates lying and falsification among those who are donating. Do you people even realize how many people who HAVE slept with at least one man since the AIDS epidemic are donating?? Those of us who choose to be honest are those who have also been in monogamous relationships for 5+ years or even decades! So many people who identify themselves as heterosexual, yet are also on the "down low" and hooking up with random strangers numerous times a year. Yet when their place of worship or local university hosts a blood drive do you think they sit back and say "Nah, I'm not gonna donate. I've been sleeping around with dudes." Or when they get there and asked the question do you seriously think they say yes only to explain to their wife why they were turned away??? Plus how many people in the army donate every year and then forced to hide their sexual identity??

    June 27, 2010 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jason J

      and I totally didn't read the previous post prior to mine. Obviously. So okay, not all of us in committed monogamous relationships are honest and still break federal law. I have a problem with that personally, but that's just me. I tried getting on the bone marrow donor registry to potentially help save a life. But when I honestly answered that I had been with one man since 1979 I was immediately rejected and placed on a list. pretty much black listed. So now even if I wanted to lie I couldn't. If my mother was dying in the hospital and I was her only match for bone marrow or an organ transplant I would have to sit back and watch her die.

      June 27, 2010 at 17:47 | Report abuse |
  3. Jason J


    June 27, 2010 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Scott

    I am gay and give blood all the Time. I simply LIE because this Is totally atupid.
    Many of the people I know also lie and I wncourage all Gay men to lie to give blood unless of course your HIV positive.
    Many other group are just as likely to have Hiv.

    LIE LIE LIE it is stupid . How the H@ll are they going to fereet out truly infected blood simply by asking? STUPID.

    July 2, 2010 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Educated Black Beauty

    1. The fact of that matter is that gay men are more promiscuous than other groups. African American females are being infected with HIV at higher rates, not because they are more promiscuous (I am an extremely attractive black woman and IN THE CLOSET gay men try to hit on me all the time and i'm not promiscous) but because they are being infected by men that are on the down low..sleeping with other men in the closet and pretending to be straight in the light......

    2. A lot of the people responding to this article are probably gay, biased, or know people who are gay (I've worked in fashion & entertainment and do have gay friends) and are one sided on the issue and that's understandable

    3. I volunteer for a national, well known organization and we donot accept donations from gay men...there is a very good reason for that policy being in place, even if the general population doesn't agree or understand why.......

    4. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, that doesn't make it right or wrong – that's simply your opinion and here's mine: SAFETY IN THE BLOOD SUPPLY OUTWEIGHS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. Period.

    July 15, 2010 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sparky

      I know this is a late entry but your diatribe throughout this thread is rather arrogant and definitely narcissistic. To be truly smart is to walk in someone else's shoes. If ALL "Educated Black Women" were denied donating blood, your opinion might be different.

      December 30, 2010 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
  6. Xavier

    Sad situation, a blood discrimination, well blood and money since I'm sure that being discriminated due to orientation stops the needed flow of both blood and monetary donations. I'm sure the organization makes it up in other ways, but it's an ugly business of turning people away and turning around, almost begging at times, for blood at 'high need' times of the year. I wonder, historians, how long ago was it that minority's were allowed to donate to the mainstream blood pool and not just there ethnicity , or are there still genetics markers to segregate supply from demand?

    Guess that's why blood synthetics and substitutes are the big designer medical market. Artificial. Clean. Business. People are so yesterday's cow for milking, and a price tag can be hung on it.

    Well, some of you can get back to the personal agenda posting. Peace.

    August 12, 2010 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jazzy

    all yes answered to questions that pertains to being Africans, having tattoos, having sex with men, being a prostitute , having stds, men having sex with men or being promiscuous (dispute of sexual orientation) will be ineligible for giving blood...the constant wining is getting tired. It makes much sense not to accept blood from gays (among other groups that are high risk) . Who the heck would want blood from people who fall in that category. Stop being so dam selfish.

    September 24, 2010 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. jazzy

    Anyone who answers yes to questions that pertains to being Africans, having tattoos, being a men and having sex with men, being a prostitute , having stds, or being promiscuous (dispute of sexual orientation) should be ineligible for giving blood...the constant wining thats heard from gays are getting tired. It makes much sense not to accept blood from gays (among other groups that are high risk) . Who the heck would want blood from people who fall in that category. Stop being so dam selfish.

    September 24, 2010 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Big T

    I think the only way to get this banned changed is to boy cot giving blood and plasma if the blood supply drops enough to show that people aint taking this lying down then they would do something.

    October 11, 2010 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. samantha lynn

    i have a gay friend, who is O- blood type and HIV-, being the universal donor it is sad that he cannot donate due to this law. i mean come on, me being a young straight female, who can be so sure whether or not i am HIV+? you can't tell by just looking at someone, and not all gay men have HIV, sure they are a "high risk group" but everyone is at risk. for example, a man cheats on his wife with another woman, contracts HIV, and he comes home to his wife, she ends up HIV positive as well, both are straight and both now have HIV. she doesn't know her husband cheated, and she doesn't know she is HIV positive. she'll donate blood unknowing but this blood will be tested before use.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cindy lou

      we need to keep the blood supply safe. that is why these rules are in place.

      April 3, 2011 at 16:39 | Report abuse |
    • nex

      Yes, we do, thats why every collected sample is screened for HIV and other diseases. This however is a policy dating to times when HIV testing was not possible, so the whole group at large was banned just in case.

      October 25, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
  11. DeeJ

    My understanding is that the blood is checked before it is given to a recipient. They need to check the Type and for diseases. I certainly wouldn't want to have "tainted" blood put into my body for any reason. And, I was brought up not to lie – ever.

    How sad that so many people would be deceitful for their own gain.

    April 3, 2011 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Kelsea

    What does this have to do with gay people donating blood? I'm a christian, too, but we should keep on topic.

    May 4, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. carm

    I know this article is 2 years old but I had no idea about this law. I am watching Harry's Law right now and this is a topic. I am a black female a I couldn't imagine them saying you can't donate blood because you are black. If this were before the 70's I can see it happening.

    I think that this is so horrible! Why are they singling out gay men. What about Lesbians and straight men and women. Everyone who has sex in this world is at risk! How is it that gay men so much more riskier than others? Can someone point me to research so I can read it? This is really boggling my mind wow!

    May 13, 2012 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Holly

      I agree that this law is appalling!!! Gay men who practice safe sex and who are tested regularly for hiv and stds should be allowed to donate without having to lie. And I don't believe that these men are donating for personal gain vs. doing what is good and right for the community. If blood and blood products are properly tested then the possibility of any illnesses or diseases being passed to others via transfusions shouldn't even be an issue here. This policy was implemented when aids was first discovered and little was known about its transmission and the public was rightfully scared. With the knowledge we now have concerning hiv and aids, this law should be considered null and void and should be revoked in the best interest of the medically challenged who see scarcer available blood supply with each passing year. What prevents someone who is hiv+ from deciding that I am going to show all those f*&*^rs out there that have looked at me judgingly and discriminatingly by giving them a taste of the life I live, by donating my diseased blood during a national blood drive sweep. If the blood being donated by anyone and everyone is not being tested and screened properly then we are at much greater risk of contracting hiv or some other bloodborne pathogen than we know and those risks are probably statistically much greater than if we allowed gay men to donate and we screen and test all blood religiously.

      May 13, 2012 at 21:44 | Report abuse |
  14. Mark D in Boston

    Tell the FDA you oppose this discrimination, write to their Vaccine, Blood & Biologics group:
    Health & Human Services has final approval on dropping this stupid ban. Write to the Director:

    May 14, 2012 at 00:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Amy Miller

    Blood is tested for more diseases than just HIV before it's given out. There are a number of blood-borne diseases that could be transmitted from donors. That's why they test the blood, and since all blood is tested, it shouldn't matter who's giving the blood. I am heterosexual and I've definitely slept with a man since 1977. He could have given me an STD, but they tested my blood and didn't find anything. This is utterly ridiculous. Testing the blood is supposedly universal practice, and certainly should be. What kind of idiot bases whether the blood can be used on what someone says, anyway?

    May 14, 2012 at 02:22 | Report abuse | Reply
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    May 15, 2012 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. disappointed in health care system and the FDA

    It's a sad fact when the FDA would rather let people Die instead of allowing blood from a gay male save that life. You don't have to condone the lifestyle but if its possiable to test the blood to make sure that its safe why not let them donate? As someone who doesn't condone that lefstyle I would gladly accept the blood as long as it was tested and safe if it would safe my life.

    May 16, 2012 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
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  20. Kevin Turner

    All "high risk" groups should be eliminated from the blood supply. There's plenty of blood available that has been provided from "low risk" groups without the need to get blood from "high risk" sources that MAY contaminate the blood supply, according to the CDC (and common sense). If you volunteer or donate to great causes, everyone thanks you for your sacrifice but please don't risk the life of someone else because you feel slighted. How would you feel if a child needed your blood for a routine operation and it had extremely low levels of HIV that infected her? Not worth the risk. There's plenty of blood without the risk.

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