Overheard: Ban on gay men donating blood
July 9th, 2012
12:04 PM ET

Overheard: Ban on gay men donating blood

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Blood donations are down in the U.S. this summer. Gay men have been banned from donating blood because it has been connected to the spread of AIDS. But policymakers are re-examining that ban. The debate has raged among officials, and created a national conversation, as reflected in in CNN.com comments.

One commenter shared his personal experience with being unable to donate blood, saying he thinks the ban should be lifted:

My partner of many decades and I have been in a completely monogamous relationship since before many on this board were even born. And even within our relationship, we do nothing that is considered "high risk" of HIV transmission, though we are both HIV negative. Yet we are summarily prevented from donating blood. That is absolutely nonsensical. As the report points out, it is behavior, not the gender of the individuals involved, that matters. We are at FAR lower risk than a huge proportion of the heterosexual population, yet we are prohibited and they are not. This policy has served to stigmatize a group of people instead of keeping the blood supply safe.

Two other personally invested commenters expressed a different view:

Jake Hollander
So, I'm not allowed to donate blood (due to the fact that I'm gay). … And just so you know, I completely understand why (they) wouldn't completely reverse the ban. While permanent deferral is a bit much, the fact of the matter is anal intercourse between two men is still a risky sexual behavior, especially if protection is not used or used improperly. I say do what England did last September and institute a temporary deferral.

As a gay, HIV negative health care provider who has been free of any sexually transmitted disease, I hold a different view with many other gay people. Until we have routine testing for HIV in the general population, I will err on the side of caution and respectively leave blood donation to the non-gay/bi community.

Many commenters said they believe the ban should be lifted:

How can people be so ignorant. Just because someone has a preference for the same sex doesn't mean they put themselves at risk. I think that all those who are gay have had their constitutional rights violated.

I really don't care who saves my life. Thank you!

Initially the ban made sense. Today it does not. It does not determine risk.

Clean blood is clean and tainted blood is tainted. That's the only distinction. It doesn't matter if it comes from someone who is gay, straight, Chinese, black, Mexican, Republican, Democrat, fat, thin, etc.

Others said they think allowing homosexual men to donate is too risky:

Homosexuals are a high risk group and that is just a fact. Considering use of blood from this high risk group does not solve the problem of declining blood donations. … If the gay community really cared about the health and well-being of society, they would not want to introduce high risk blood into the donation system.

I recently needed 4 liters of blood during open heart surgery. If there is a group of people more prone to carrying the AIDS virus than any other group of people, then I am perfectly fine having that group excluded from donating blood. I don’t care what their sexual orientation is.

Ule Notknow
"Unwarranted discrimination," Baloney. It's warranted. It's not a matter of "discrimination", it's a matter of common sense.

One commenter suggested there's another undertone to the debate: 

I think one thing goes without saying...
The safety of the blood supply DOES NOT matter; offending someone does.

And another said the timeliness of re-examining the ban is important to point out:

So when you're running low on recruits … consider gays. When you're running low on blood … consider gays. I guess a friend in need becomes more friendly.

What do you think about this debate? Should gay men be allowed to donate blood in the U.S.? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Post by:
Filed under: Conditions • HIV/AIDS

soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. PhatDajuan

    Statistically, Black Americans are are much higher risk for HIV infection than White Americans. So imagine what would happen if the FDA decided that Blacks should be prohibited from donating blood.

    July 9, 2012 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • asdf


      July 9, 2012 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • SillyCrap

      Sounds like plan!

      Why would we allow ourselves to get tainted blood when it can't be proven to be clean???

      Rights only go so far.... after that you have to bring common sense into it. When YOUR rights put me at risk... that's when your 'rights' stop.

      Get a clue you bunch of sexual deviants.

      July 9, 2012 at 16:07 | Report abuse |
    • Katie Murphy - ex catholic family

      yes, unfortunately due to the extreme poverty that leads to drug / needle useage. And the really most apt to be hiv positive are black women, which should be obviosu why.

      the group least likely of all to have HIv or other stds is Lesbian.

      the only solutioln is multiple tesing of the blood, which is done – at least twice, and positive doners are notified by mail, but the syustem works on bar codes so the testers etc do not know whose who to protect privacy.

      The current ban is foolish and hurts people. And in the general population, since gays are a relatively small part of the population, the real danger comes from str8s of all demographic groups.

      July 9, 2012 at 22:56 | Report abuse |
    • Big E

      I wents and got a blood transfusion last week and they gave me a black man's blood. And I declare dat I ain't been able to stop eating friend chicken and watermelon since! And boy can I dance!

      July 12, 2012 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
  2. Edmond

    What kind of "ban" is in place right now? A voluntary one, which is only effective when the donor is being honest. As long as the blood is tested before it enters public use, there should be no problem. ALL blood should be tested, and no doubt is.

    July 9, 2012 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Joseph kaveva

    These type of people should not be allowed to donate blood not only in us but also wld.wide because of 1000ad1 resons.

    July 9, 2012 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie Murphy - ex catholic family

      and peopel who oppose gays donating should go on a list – any shortages of blood they go to the bottom of the line.

      July 9, 2012 at 22:57 | Report abuse |
  4. Charles Stewart

    As a practical matter, many patients might not ever feel safe receiving blood that was thought for mamy years to be tainted so why not label it separately? It could be a choice for the recipient.

    July 9, 2012 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SillyCrap

      yeah, right...
      Who is going to take that gamble? Russian Roulette anyone??

      How dumb can you be

      July 9, 2012 at 16:08 | Report abuse |
    • liz

      In many cases, including mine, blood transfusions aren't anticipated. However, during surgery the blood loss was very significant and I would not have survived without donated blood, so the doctor made the choice for me – – which is the case most of the time.

      July 9, 2012 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
  5. derp

    They should just put a sticker on the pints of blood donated by gays. If you are bleeding to death, you can decide whether or not you are willing to take that risk.

    July 9, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SillyCrap


      July 9, 2012 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
    • Katie Murphy - ex catholic family

      really thats a great idea to get rid of bigots in the name of God

      BTW I thought Jesus loved all.

      July 9, 2012 at 22:59 | Report abuse |
  6. John

    Dr. Jay P. Brooks is the director of blood banking and transfusion medicine at University Hospital in San Antonio and a professor of pathology at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

    The science in the U.S. shows that changing the lifetime deferral on men who have sex with men will increase the risk of HIV-infected blood entering the blood supply.

    July 9, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Muddy Buddy

      Banning men who have not had sex with another man in 20 years helps the blood supply. They test the blood, so the risk is recent infections with HIV, not 20 year old ones. A more rational ban would be to ban people who have had unprotected sex with mulitple partners in the last year, or something of that nature.

      July 9, 2012 at 17:02 | Report abuse |
  7. Oldmanalex

    What about the European residency donor ban for BSE? It almost certainly knocks out more donors than all of the other prohibitions combined. And it targets a high participation pool, ex-military, ex-students abroad, and professionals. A few (three?) people in Britain probably caught BSE from blood donations, where the outbreak was worst. Or spend a day in Asia, and be deferred for a year. More organ recipients have almost certainly died from rabies than blood recipients from BSE, and donors who died of apparent drug overdoses are still used. But arguing sexually-oriented bans and sexually transmitted diseases is a lot more interesting.

    July 9, 2012 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Jaime

    I want to see a current study showing that gay men are at a higher risk for HIV. Otherwise I think it's just nonsense and media hype. Are there studies showing that gay men are more likely to have unprotected sex than heterosexual men and women? 'Cause for some reason they must enjoy risking getting STDs? I've never understood the ban on allowing gay men to give blood, other than when it was ignorantly hyped that HIV was a "gay disease."

    July 9, 2012 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SillyCrap

      Why don't you prove it by getting blood from a gay man who hasn't been recently tested but "says he was tested"

      I think you would pass like everybody else. At some point you'll need to climb down from your high horse.

      July 9, 2012 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      Please!! This is ridiculous!! It should be about providing SAFE blood to people who need it PERIOD.. Gays make a stink about this because why?? Their feelings are hurt! To bad! Here's a tissue stop your crying! Why should we risk the well being of thousands of people to protect gays feelings?

      July 10, 2012 at 10:59 | Report abuse |
  9. joe wells

    do not collect their blood.

    July 9, 2012 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie Murphy - ex catholic family

      Ithink its a great way to stop bigotry – no blood for bigots – If they say they dont want gay blood, give them colored water. or some such thing.

      July 9, 2012 at 23:02 | Report abuse |
  10. SillyCrap

    Any idea how common heroin is now adays. I'm sure they all use clean needles of course.

    There are entire sections of the population that shouldn't be allowed to give blood – EVER.

    As far as I'm concerned you should have to pass a huge amount of tests and then wait for 6 months before being tested again and then and only then can you give blood. Btw... you have to go through these tests each time you give blood.

    July 9, 2012 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leo

      Having been a volunteer for the Red Cross for many years, and a blood donor for a long time, I can tell you that if we implemented those ridiculous restrictions on blood donations, tens of thousands of people would DIE every year due to blood shortages. We already can't get enough blood in the system, and you want to impose STRICTER regulations with waiting times and excessive testing? Do you know how many extra people will die? And do you understand that donors do this for FREE?

      People DONATE when it's convenient. If you make it almost impossible to donate, then folks are NOT going to put in that time and effort. The blood supply will be decimated.

      Generally, people only donate if they KNOW they're clean. Why? Because people don't donate to be malicious. They do it because they want to help folks. It's not like they're being paid for it. The only reason people donate is to help others. If you want to see what happens when the blood supply REALLY drops... just be prepared to watch people die needlessly. You have no clue, do you?

      July 9, 2012 at 16:25 | Report abuse |
    • Katie Murphy - ex catholic family

      Leo – the only thing these people have is fear and that of course leads to hate.

      July 9, 2012 at 23:04 | Report abuse |
  11. liz

    here's my understanding – – Donated blood is screened for as many kinds of diseases as possible before being transfused to a patient. However, AIDs is often not diagnosed or discovered for months or even years. I was told this by an RN. If this is true, it makes sense to eliminate those who are sexually promiscuous and live high risk lives. I've had 4 transfusions in my life plus transplants of human bone and tissue. Please keep the supply as clean as possible and take no chances with this precious supply. I can't donate now for another year because I received transplants during last surgery. There are reasons for these guidelines – – let's listen to the experts. This issue has no place for political correctness or pressure to change because some are offended.

    July 9, 2012 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leo

      You were told by an RN? Oh yeah, there's an expert.

      Also, "sexually promiscuous and high risk lives" does NOT include every gay person. Your prejudices are showing. What about the gay folks who have never done drugs and have been monogamous for years? Much LOWER risk than promiscious straight people.

      You've had transfusions because the blood was AVAILABLE. What happens when you need a transfusion but there's NO BLOOD? Do you know what a shortage is? Do you understand that there are potentially millions of disease-free, healthy donors who could help contribute to the blood supply, but are being banned because of misplaced prejuces?

      Seriously, your paranoia isn't helping anyone.

      July 9, 2012 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • Dad

      @ Leo... Your ignorance is helping no one. She (Liz) is absolutely correct, it can take as long as 10 years before an HIV positive diagnosis is seen. 2 monogamous gay guys does not mean that their/your blood is safe. Where do you think this disease started anyway? Then it spread throughout the hetrosexuals as well because they were not monogamous.

      July 29, 2012 at 19:15 | Report abuse |
    • JReagan

      Your ignorance and prejudice is showing. AIDS isn't a "gay disease". Heterosexuals are perfectly capable of transmitting HIV and there is no significant difference in prevalence between straight and gay populations despite the unscientific hype and panic in the 80's. Right now, straight people who are highly promiscuous, share needles, etc. have a 12 month deferral period (how long it actually takes for HIV to become detectable, not 10 years). Meanwhile, a gay man who has no high risk factors and can be proven to have been HIV negative for the past 20 years, is still banned for life.

      Try to be a little less ignorant/bigoted in the future.

      August 21, 2012 at 18:42 | Report abuse |
  12. ruth

    TOO RISKY!!!!!

    July 9, 2012 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Nephthys

    So...donated blood isn't tested for HIV? That would be the only reason not to allow gay men to donate. And even at that, gay men are not the only people who are HIV positive. I don't understand this policy at all. But then, I don't know how donated blood is handled. Is it just taken, then stored for use without any screening? Surely not! Hopefully not!

    July 9, 2012 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie Murphy - ex catholic family

      I've donated blood. it is tested multiple times. This sort of thing has been done for a long long time – many decades.

      BTW think of all the other STDs that have to be tested for also.

      think of eg AFrica, where 23 million have HIV. Most are not gay.

      July 9, 2012 at 23:06 | Report abuse |
  14. Tony

    Just label the blood as such, and patients can choose the type of blood they want. If one type is more in demand, the price will rise and the patient can just pay more.

    July 9, 2012 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jen in Texas

    I'm not "banned" but they'll never take my blood. The minimum hemoglobin count is 12.4 and I've never tested above 11.5. I don't blame gay men for being angry; there's a certain insult in being told that your blood isn't good enough to save a dying person. Plenty of mosquitoes will tell you my blood is just fine.

    July 9, 2012 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. dotcomm

    It is risky behavior,and I totally agree.I have given blood and plasma plenty of times,and it is not just gay sex they question you on--it's anything that is potentially harmful.Nobody wants to go to the hospital and receive tainted blood.Simple as that.Is there even a debate?peace out

    July 9, 2012 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JReagan

      Being gay isn't risky behavior. Unprotected sex with multiple strangers and sharing of needles in intravenous drug use are risky behaviors. Sexual preference makes no difference. If you have sex with someone who was HIV positive, you are deferred for 12 months. If you are a male and have sex with another male, regardless of whether they were positive or not, you are banned for life.

      August 21, 2012 at 18:47 | Report abuse |
  17. Jeff-Tacoma

    I don't think gays should be allowed to donate blood. Not because of HIV, but what if Gay is contagious?

    Before you know it everyone would be dressing better, the price of prada would skyrocket. Taking better care of their homes, so property values would raise and our taxes would go up. An everyone would be buying up all the "Wicked" tickets instead of going to church.

    It's basically the end of the world as we know it if we treat gays equally.

    July 9, 2012 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Muddy Buddy

      Children would also be raised far better, because Gay Adoptive Parents perform far better at parenting than average.

      July 9, 2012 at 17:04 | Report abuse |
  18. D Rufus Onfyre

    I was always under the impression that all blood was tested and verified to be "clean". People who know they are hiv+ should not (and probably don't) try to donate blood. Healthy blood is healthy blood.

    July 9, 2012 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Donor

    I believe that the medical issue here is that, even though all blood donations are tested for certain diseases, HIV being one of these, the test may come up with a false negative if someone has been recently infected. However, there are ways of changing the questions that would screen for someone who has engaged in risky behaviors, such as drug abuse and unprotected sex, that would allow gays to donate blood while still keeping the supply of clean blood.
    I think it is silly that a heterosexual man who has engaged in promiscuous sex is eligible to donate blood, while a gay man in a monogamous relationship is not.
    I also think the social issue is that many people are prejudiced against gays and this is the true reason they do not want them included in the blood donor pool.

    July 9, 2012 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Lucca

    I am a 58 year old gay man and have been in a monogamous relationship for the past 17 years. My partner and I are both HIV- and only practice safe sex. It is ridiculous that we cannot donate blood. I did for many years before the ban was put into effect. Two years ago I was diagnosed with a hereditary genetic disease called hemochromatosis. It is a genetic defect that causes my body to store iron. The best course of treatment for my condition is to have regular phlebotomies because losing blood helps to deplete the stored iron. After my diagnosis I had weekly appointments to be drained of good healthy blood which was then thrown out. This went on for the better part of a year. My iron levels are in check now but being able to donate blood in the future would be a life saving way to monitor my iron count while also benefiting someone else. This ban served it's purpose during the height of the AIDS epidemic but needs to be reviewed now. I know far more heterosexuals who participate in risky behavior than most of my gay friends. I

    July 9, 2012 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. T.rex

    Just this past weekend, i was walking by a blood drive on Ventura where a worker had the nerve to ask me for a blood donation and then acted miffed when i (truthfully) told him that "i'm poz". Don't solicit, if you aren't comfortable with the answer.

    July 9, 2012 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. patty rodgers

    if this country has come to this then each donor should be required to sign legal papers stating their sexual pref. etc etc if cought l lieing mandatory 25 years 2 life no exceptions

    July 9, 2012 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. LaRose

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with gay ppl donating blood. The bottom line is, is it good and HIV free..now when u go around putting labels on things, like "gay blood" you are dividing ppl and sound rediculous..Act like you have a little sense..if" they" go through the same screening process we all have to do, and pass, you can save a life, even mine..Ppl..stop putting labels on things..we got here the same way, we will leave the same way, we are the same.

    July 9, 2012 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. patty rodgers

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    July 10, 2012 at 02:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Polli

    I think it ridiculous...lots of people have contracted aids thru blood transfusions....

    Really these medical people could run some ads for new blood....even a press release....

    sure haven't seent he use of social media in replenishing the blood supply....

    July 12, 2012 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Polli

    Uh, to the person saying theya re the same....when aids hit we saw the decimation of hundreds of guys in our neighborhood. It has a devasting effect on the body. These guys were all dead in about 5 years....NOT THE SAME.


    July 12, 2012 at 09:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Jim

    Interesting… I am not gay but they will not accept my blood either. It seems I spent too much time in England (specifically I was studying in London) in 1991 (6 months) and the authorities are concerned about spreading "mad cow" disease. It seems such a waste because I was on track to donate by third gallon (yes Gallon) of blood after I came back from my overseas adventure when they banned me from giving blood about 10 years ago. Further, I am ok (I think at least) and I have not been back to London for at least 15 years. If they really need blood....

    July 12, 2012 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. dino palmer

    As long as the ban can prevent the spread of std, the i'm 100% for the ban.

    July 31, 2012 at 06:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JReagan

      Except it doesn't do anything to help stop STDs.

      August 21, 2012 at 18:51 | Report abuse |
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  34. Stephen

    There's a lot of problems with the current standard. I was turned away fairly recently when I had tried to donate blood at a college blood drive. The catch? I'm not gay. I was turned away because I was raped and molested as a child. I had recently had a test for all STD's because I had unprotected sex with a female three years earlier and wanted to make sure I'm clean. Even with a clean bill of health, they decided I couldn't donate blood since I was an abuse victim.

    You'd think there would be an exception somewhere. I'm not left with needing to decide whether not to say anything in the future or if I just need to accept that fact that I won't be able to donate blood due to the current regulations by the FDA.

    Any thoughts?

    September 18, 2012 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stephen

      Sorry, just noticed a few typos above. Corrected everything for the reply below.

      There are a lot of problems with the current standard. I was turned away fairly recently when I had tried to donate blood at a college blood drive. The catch? I'm not gay. I was turned away because I was raped and molested as a child. I had been tested fairly recently for STD's because I wanted a follow-up after having had unprotected sex with a female a few years prior. The tests came back and I was given a clean bill of health. Even then, with a clean bill of health, they decided I couldn't donate blood since I was an abuse victim.

      You'd think there would be an exception somewhere. The choice that I now have to make is whether I want to leave out the details and lie when they ask if I've ever had sexual contact with another man or if I want to tell the truth. If I tell the truth, I'll just never be able to donate blood. I'd say the FDA needs to make some changes, and quick.

      Any thoughts?

      September 18, 2012 at 00:14 | Report abuse |
  35. Chris

    I agree that gay men should be banned, even the ones who have protected sex. The fact that the blood is screened and tested for HIV prior to being administered to another person is irrelevant. On the same note, Black men should also be banned from giving blood. According the the CDC's website, 44% of all newly diagnosed HIV infections are African Americans. 70% of which are black men. It's definitely way too risky to allow them to donate blood. So my position, keep the ban on gays and create a ban on blacks. Honestly, who cares if there's a blood shortage, people aren't getting blood that they need, safety first. We should definitely cut out gays and blacks because no one wants to take that tiny chance that the screening process fails to detect HIV.

    November 25, 2012 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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