The Suffolk Journal

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Ban on blood: The FDA should rethink

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In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, hundreds of victims were left in critical condition in hospitals all around the city.

Within hours after the shooting, lines for blood donation centers had wrapped around the block. It appeared that most people in the area had come out to help.

Well, almost everyone.

In 1985, a lifetime ban policy was put into effect by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that made it impossible for certain groups of the LGBTQ community to donate blood. This included men who have sex with men (MSM), women who have sex with MSM, and transgender individuals who have sex with MSM. At the time, the country was experiencing a large HIV/AIDS epidemic and what was, at the time, a precautionary measure, now remains as an extremely discriminatory policy.

There have been a few updates made to the policy due to increased criticism of the FDA, which made it acceptable for most of the LGBTQ community to donate, but the policy is still discriminatory. The only exception for people who are allowed to give blood is that gay men must abstain from having sex for 12 months before being eligible to donate.

Despite having access to comprehensive HIV testing and treatment, the FDA still refusesdonations from gay or bi-sexual men that do not have this deferral period.

This is a civil rights issue.

Under the current policy, gay and bi-sexual men are not allowed to donate blood, unless they either become abstinent for a year, or lie about their sexual history. The latter option is troubling. Even if they have a protected, healthy sex life, they are still ineligible to donate, which hinders the ability for hospitals to save more lives since some people who want to give blood cannot.

Despite centers receiving more blood than they even knew what to do with, that does not make it okay to exclude members of society from contributing. According to a report done by UCLA Williams Institute in 2014, if the FDA were to lift this ban on gay and bisexual men, it would save 1.8 million lives a year.There are alternatives to ensuring that the blood being received is safe, but completely banning perfectly healthy individuals solely because of their sexual orientation will only set us back in the fight for equality of the LGBTQ community.

So how could the FDA alter this policy?

First off, the FDA should remove the mandatory deferral period for gay and bi-sexual men. If the individual is comfortable, it would be helpful for donation centers to be able to assess their specific sexual practices before turning them away at the door. A deferral should be on a specific case basis. By assuming all gay sex is a risk, the FDA is basically asking to be criticized and is persecuting a group of people who have already endured oppression for most of history.

It is critical that we, as a society, stand up for a ridiculous injustice that has most likely gone unnoticed by most of us.

The fight for total equality for the LGBTQ community will only grow stronger if we tear down old policies that continue to discriminate individuals simply because of their sexual orientation.

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Ban on blood: The FDA should rethink