Houston to Be Part of National Protest to Lift Ban on Blood Donations from Gay Men

For thirty years, gay and bisexual men have been banned from donating blood in the United States. Houston will be part of a nationwide protest tomorrow to get the FDA to lift that ban.

The Food And Drug Administration enacted the ban in 1983. That was before an effective test to detect HIV was developed, and people were being infected through donated blood. The lifetime donation ban applies to all men who have had even one sexual encounter with another man since 1977.

"And we feel that policy is out-of-date, and unnecessarily discriminates."

That's Emily Martin. She's the local coordinator of a nationwide gay blood drive demonstration. It'll work like this: gay and bisexual men in Houston and several other cities will go to their local blood banks tomorrow and take a rapid HIV test. If the result is negative, the men will ask the bank to take their blood donation. Martin says the bank will have to turn them down.

"Afterwards, they will come out and give us a copy of their test results, so we can take that information to the FDA, and try and convey to the FDA how much blood the gay community could contribute to the blood supply."

Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is cooperating with tomorrow's demonstration. Dr. Beth Hartwell is Medical Director there, and she says it's time for the FDA to revisit this policy.

"And put it back to a one-year deferral, the same as we do for excluding individuals with other behaviors that give an increased risk for transfusion-transmitted infections."

A study by UCLA estimates that if gay men were allowed to donate blood after one year of abstaining from sex, it would result in additional 90,000 pints of blood in the nation's supply every year.

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David Pitman

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