This article was published on July 7th, 2012
The American Red Cross is in dire need to restock the United States blood supply. The current shortfall of available blood has left only half of the readily available blood on hand than the same time in 2011. In June 2012, the American Red Cross issued an urgent message to all eligible donors to “step up, roll up a sleeve and give blood or platalets as soon as possible.”
Since 1985, the American Food and Drug Administration has banned, for life, sexually active gay men from donating blood.
“The FDA’s ban was put into place during the very early days of the AIDS epidemic when so little was known about the disease,” said Dr. Steve Ganzell, Christopher Street West Board of Directors.
During the June 8-10, 2012, LA Pride events, festival organizer Christopher Street West held a “blood drive” campaign. The campaign had 2,085 attendees sign a petition to support the efforts to lift the outdated ban. Each signature represented one pint of blood that could have been collected, and according to the American Red Cross, one pint of blood can save three lives; meaning 6,000 lives could have been saved.
Last year, a similar ban was revised in England, Scotland and Wales which now allows gay men to give blood if they haven’t had sex with another man for at least one year.
Also in the month of June, Senator John Kerry and Rep. Mike Quigley voiced support for a new pilot study reviewing the policy being conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In an op-ed, Kerry and Quigley wrote, “In the 27 years since [the FDA ban was enacted], we have seen vast advances in blood screening technology, policy changes in other nations, and staunch opposition from the nation’s blood banks who have called the current ban medically and scientifically unwarranted. Our current policies turn away healthy, willing donors, even when we face serious blood shortages.”
Richard Benjamin, Chief Medical Officer of the American Red Cross, recently told The Washington Post, “…HIV was a much bigger threat to the U.S. blood supply decades ago but that scientific advances have allowed much earlier and better detection of the virus that causes AIDS.” Benjamin is calling for the ban to be shortened to one year.
In Canada, several lobbyist groups are calling on the Canadian Federal Government and related agencies to reverse a similar ban on men who sleep with men for not being able to donate blood.