Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Orlando Shooting, Should Gay Men Be Allowed to Donate Blood?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Orlando Shooting, Should Gay Men Be Allowed to Donate Blood?

Article excerpt

Hours after the attack at the Pulse nightclub Sunday that killed 50 and injured more than 53 people, Orlando's OneBlood donation center Tweeted an "urgent need" for more blood.

Hundreds responded immediately, quickly overwhelming OneBlood's supply capacity. But missing was the group most impacted by the worst shooting in US history: gay men.

Gay and bisexual men who have been sexually active within a year cannot donate blood under Federal Drug Administration guidelines.

Although the FDA eased in December a three-decade ban of any blood donations from gay and bisexual men, these current restrictions have many in the gay community feeling helpless and others furious.

Many took to social media to characterize the major restrictions as hypocritical in comparison to gun laws, as the gunman, Omar Saddiqui Mateen, reportedly bought an AR-15-semiautomatic assault rifle and a handgun within days of the shooting.

It's legal to buy an AR-15 assault rifle. It's illegal for a gay man to donate blood to victims of the massacre. The world makes no sense.-- John Barcus (@johnrtworld) June 12, 2016

Things in America that are harder to do than buying a gun:Going to the bathroom as a transgender person.Donating blood as a gay man.- - Ashlee Latimer (@ALNL) June 12, 2016

When the FDA eased the ban in December of any blood donations from gay and bisexual men, its reception was lukewarm, as Lucy Schouten reported for The Christian Science Monitor at the time. The FDA enacted the all-out-ban 30 years ago in an effort to stop the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and an illness the world knew little about then.

This past year, the FDA said the full ban was no longer supported by science, and lifted it, largely because of a compelling study by the Australian government. Australia, along with Britain and New Zealand, preceded the United States in reducing the lifelong ban on gay men donating blood.

"Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the US population," Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA's biologics division, said in a statement at the time. …

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