During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more obvious than ever that gay and bi men should be able to donate blood
All over the world blood banks are facing shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic, yet in both America and the UK gay and bisexual men are still unable to donate if they are sexually active.
According to the American Red Cross, since the coronavirus began 2,700 blood drives have been cancelled, resulting in 86,000 fewer blood donations. The NHS has also announced: “Our centres are open but we are now collecting less blood.”
We now face a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this #coronavirus outbreak. Make an appointment to help patients counting on lifesaving blood: https://t.co/lQdFEVrctc pic.twitter.com/rnUpJF1vq4
— American Red Cross (@RedCross) March 17, 2020
In the US, men who have sex with men cannot donate blood unless they have been celibate for at least a year. This rule was put in place in 2015, before which gay and bisexual men could not donate at all.
In the UK, current blood donor policy makes it illegal for men who have sex with men to donate blood if they have had sex within three months of donating.
However, this does not apply to Northern Ireland, where gay and bisexual men must still go a year without having sex before donating.
Similar policies exist across the world and are associated with the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, which predominantly affected queer men.
— GiveBlood 🩸🅰️🅱️🆎🅾️🧼🖐 (@GiveBloodNHS) March 17, 2020
However, a recent study showed that there had been zero increase in HIV infections from donated blood in the United States after the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual male donors was lifted.
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According to The Daily Beast, openly gay Colorado governor Jared Polis said when the lifetime ban was lifted in 2015: “It is ridiculous and counter to the public health that a married gay man in a monogamous relationship can’t give blood, but a promiscuous straight man who has had hundreds of opposite sex partners in the last year can.”
According to GLAAD: “The FDA screens every unit of blood donated for infectious diseases prior to entering the donation pool. Current tests for HIV are able to detect the presence of the virus with high precision within 11 days after infection.
“Based on this science, a 12-month deferral for MSM does not make any sense; furthermore, the test is able to detect HIV with such a high precision that only 1 in 3.1 million units of blood infected with HIV will make it past the screen.
“Therefore, opening up blood donations to MSM donors would not cause a significant difference in HIV transmission risk from blood transfusions.”
During his presidential campaign, gay former Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg said at a town hall debate on LGBT+ rights: “I remember the moment when I realised that, unlike most initiatives that I spearhead, I can’t lead by example on this one, because my blood’s not welcome in this country.
“And it’s not based on science; it’s based on prejudice.”