It’s time the US eased the ban on gay men giving blood

Campaigner Michael Kevin Hernandez wants more gay and bisexual men to have the right to be superheroes and give blood

It’s time the US eased the ban on gay men giving blood
29 March 2013

When was the last time you thought about being a superhero and saving a life?

When I ask people, ‘Who is an everyday superhero?’ you might answer a firefighter, police officer, doctor, those in the military who serve our country. But we can all potentially be a superhero. You may already be one and not even know it, because you can donate blood.

Each time we donate blood we can save up to three lives. Someone who has suffered a car accident can use an average 100 pints of blood. At that moment when you donate blood you are saving a life. That makes you a hero.

Donating blood is one of the easiest and greatest gifts we can give. However, a certain population has been denied the right to donate blood, the right to feel like a superhero, based on stereotypes, discrimination, and fear.

In the early 1980s, there was a pop up of a mysterious disease, it was first called the gay cancer, then it was renamed as the gay related immune disease, GRIDS. That scared the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and in 1983 they placed a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood. Shortly after this, the virus finally became know as HIV and the condition it can cause got the name AIDS.

At that time, given the information and technology of that day, the ban did make sense. But 30 years later, gay men are still being stereotyped as a promiscuous group that are all infected with HIV. Even though millions of people don’t fit that stereotype.

As a gay man, I don’t fit that stereotype. I am faced with the decision everyday to finally do what feels natural in my relationship or still keep myself eligible to donate blood. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled to strike down sodomy laws in Lawrance vs Texas. But, the US FDA blood donor ban still penalizes an act of love between two consenting adults because of a fear that all gay men have HIV and introducing this population into the blood donor pool is way too risky.

Studies have suggested if we were to place a one year deferment from the last promiscuous sexual encounter between two men, there would be 136,000 men in the US who will be willing to donate blood and still not taint the blood pool.

That would be enough blood to fill 2.65 family sized pools.

Thus, armed with these facts, I have started a petition, asking the US FDA to remove the lifetime ban and place a one year deferral on gay blood donors. That’s what’s been done in six other countries – Argentina, Australia, Hungary, Japan, Sweden, and the UK.

These six countries have felt their understanding of HIV and their methods of detection of the virus has come a long way and dropping their life time ban is the reasonable, sensible thing to do.

Since, I started this petition, it has given me the strength to start a non-profit organization called All R Equal Inc, which will work on promoting a positive atmosphere for everyone, not just the LGBT community.

We all now have a chance to work together to combat these stereotypes, discrimination, and fears. Help me – tell the US FDA, it is time to look at the current state of HIV research and allow reason to lead you into allowing gay men the right to donate blood.

Because donating blood is not just a gay rights issue but a human rights issue.

You can find more information and sign the petition here.

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