Dozens of people gave blood on Friday at Puget Sound Blood Center, but no gay men did. Since 1983 the FDA has banned blood donation from any man who’s had gay sex once or more. As a national Gay Blood Drive brought attention to the issue the CEO of the blood center said Friday the FDA needs to reexamine its rules.
In the three hours KIRO 7 was at the blood center not a single gay man showed up as part of the Gay Blood Drive demonstration, but a volunteer with the movement was there. The goal was to have men request to donate blood and when they were denied they would make a record of it. Then volunteers with the Gay Blood Drive would gather the information and present it to the FDA. Their message is that the policy should change based on scientific advances in blood screening.
“Now the policy is completely antiquated and unfair and discriminatory,” said Grier Phillips who volunteered for the movement.
While Seattle’s demonstration didn’t have the gay turnout desired it did receive support from the CEO of Puget Sound Blood Center, James AuBuchon.
“We believe this regulatory policy could be updated without affecting the safety of the blood supply,” said AuBuchon.
He pointed out a tricky issue with HIV. The disease is not detectable right after gay sex or exposure.
“Our tests are very good but there's always what's called a window period,” he said. “The time between exposure to HIV and their ability to turn the test positive.”
AuBuchon said learning of a blood donor’s potential exposure to diseases is a very important safety layer. He acknowledged the heightened risk of exposure to HIV in the gay community but indicated the FDA should rethink the blanket ban on gay men.
“We need to work with the FDA and continue to work with them and make sure that that layer of safety is applied in the most appropriate manner,” he said.
The FDA emphasizes its policy isn't about passing judgment on sexual orientation, instead saying it's about statistics and reducing risk. The FDA points to statistics that show gay men make up 2 percent of the population and in 2010 gay men accounted for 61 percent of all new HIV infections.
The FDA says it will consider a new approach only if it can scientifically ensure the new approach has no increased risk of HIV or other diseases.