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Government Policy Still Discriminates Against Gay Men

The Food and Drug Administration has long maintained the policy that gay men are not allowed to donate blood. The policy is insulting, degrading and unscientific. The FDA has finally agreed to change this decades-old policy. Unfortunately, the new policy does little more than slightly change the flavor of the discrimination. The FDA will now accept blood donations from gay men, as long as they have not had sexual contact with another man for at least a year. The policy matches those maintained by Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. It does not, however, match with the ideals of a nation that does not, or should not, discriminate against people based on sexual orientation.

The goal of reducing the transmission of HIV in blood transfusions is laudable. The FDA announced that it had reduced the rate of transmission from 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 1.47 million. The value of that goal does not justify a policy that needlessly discriminates against gay men. Congressman Jared Polis pointed out the main flaw in the FDA line of thinking. He questioned a policy that views any sexual contact between two men as inherently dangerous while ignoring all sexual contact between members of the opposite sex. 

The policy ignores many indicators connected to the spread of HIV and focuses only on sexual contact between two men. In 2012, 5,380 men who had sex with other men died of AIDS, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That same year, 4,550 people died of AIDS who were infected through heterosexual sex. The behaviors that represent high levels of risk for HIV infection are not restricted to gay men. A policy singling them out, as this one does, encourages other groups to join in the discrimination.

Source: Reuters, "FDA overturns 30-year ban on blood donations by gay men," by Toni Clarke, 21 December 2015 

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