Better, But Still Wrong: FDA Changes Gay Blood Donation Rules

Better, But Still Wrong: FDA Changes Gay Blood Donation Rules

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Today, the FDA changed its decades long ban on letting men who have sex with men (or MSM) donate blood! The good news is that they no longer ask if you’ve ever had sex with another man (or a man who has had sex with men, if you’re a heterosexual or bisexual woman)…. unfortunately, they just changed it from “ever” to “within the last year”.

If you “experimented” back in college — you’re okay! Even if after that “experimentation”, you’ve had sex with a different woman every day since then — bring on that blood! On the other hand, if you’ve been in a loving, monogamous relationship for a decade with your husband: Sorry, your blood is just too icky to save lives.

The frustrating thing is that it’s not just institutional homophobia — it’s that, sure, but not just that — but the FDA’s foolish ban, relaxed though it may be, is killing people. At Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight, Mona Chalabi crunched the numbers to find out how many more people would donate blood if the ban were relaxed or removed entirely:

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If the ban were lifted entirely — 4.2 million potential donors would become immediately eligible to donate blood. With a proposed five-year ban on MSM, two million would become eligible, and with the one-year ban that the FDA just enacted, 2.16 million become eligible. With the new changes, Chalabi estimates that 190,000 more people actually will donate blood… but if the ban on MSM were lifted entirely, that’d almost double the amount of new blood to 360,000 new donors.

In terms of lives saved — removing the MSM ban entirely could save 1.8 million people — each individual blood donation has the potential to be used in three different life-saving operations. The one-year ban means that we could be saving an additional 570,000 people…. but that still means that 1.23 million people go without blood that would be available were the ban entirely lifted.

(Featured Image via Viewmaker/Flickr)

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