Rejecting science, HHS maintains 1985 gay blood ban

19 June 2010
2:17 am

Last week the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability held a two-day talk to reconsider the 1985 ban on accepting donations of blood by men who have had sex with men since 1977. The US' ban has repeatedly been criticised by blood banks, medical experts and various associations as being based on no science but simply paranoia. Even though it's come up for reconsideration a few times, the ban has never been removed and sadly last week's attempt was no different. Despite soliciting opinions over the issue, the committee voted 9-6 to leave the ban in place, ignoring the advice from people who know what they are talking about who said such a ban was discriminatory and worthless.

But yet again, if you're gay in the US and consistently practising safe sex and are routinely tested, you're somehow more of a risk for contamination than a heterosexual who is unaware of his status and doesn't use condoms. You can even have unsafe sex with a prostitute if you're straight, but have to only wait a year to donate blood again; gay men are still banned for life.

A recent study proclaimed that repealing the ban would boost the US' supply of viable blood by 219,000 pints; blood levels in the US are consistently, dangerously low, but officials empowered to do the right thing still refuse to. The ban abhorrently discriminates against gay and bisexual men and causes serious harm to patients who are being deprived safe, viable blood for medical needs.

Which comes around to one of the infuriating aspects of the whole thing; throughout the entire two day conference, the Obama administration failed to make themselves involved and criticise the existing ban or even advise the HHS that they should get rid of it. Between this, the impotence over DADT, and the snowballing list of forgotten promises by Obama towards our community, I'm really finding myself incredibly frustrated with our "fierce advocate."

This video started making the rounds yesterday, and this quote in particular really summed things up for me:

"President Obama, if I may— what do you possibly gain by trampling the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans? […] I'm sorry, but pandering to people who think you were born in Kenya by crapping all over a community of people who campaigned for you, knocked on doors, raised money for you, and you won't even allow them the dignity of donating blood? That's bullshit."

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