This past July, the blood supply fell to critically low levels in Washington, D.C.
Sam Brinton, who is 28 and based there, wanted to donate. But due to a policy from the Food and Drug Administration, which prohibits men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood, that’s not possible.
“As a bisexual, if I were to sleep with women for the next year, [the] FDA says, ‘Way to go, you’re an awesome person, you’re allowed to give blood.’ If I sleep with my boyfriend for the next year, ‘You’re a horrible person, and you’re not allowed to give to those who you might want to give.’ Now they’re not saying it in such explicit terms, but limitation provides stigma,” Brinton told the PBS NewsHour Weekend.
The ban dates back to the 1980s, when HIV/AIDS within the gay community developed into a public health crisis. In 1983, the FDA introduced a lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with another man since 1977, in fear HIV infected blood would be transferred to someone who is not infected. This December, the FDA updated that rule, upholding the ban on donations, but now only from men who have had sex with men in the last year.
Some proponents say this exclusion is necessary because it is based on a higher-than-average rate of HIV infection among gay and bisexual men, while gay rights advocates say it reflects decades of stigma regarding gay men and HIV.
We’re asking: Have you been affected by the blood donation ban for men who have sex with men? The PBS NewsHour reporting team is gathering personal stories from people who are ineligible to donate blood under this rule.