If men who have sex with men must be celibate for a year, then everyone else should be held to that standard too. If they can determine risk level for heterosexuals on a case-by-case basis, then they should do it for men who have sex with men as well. Assess the risk, test the blood, and treat everyone the same. It's really that simple.
By suggesting that gay and bisexual men are at risk for HIV and straight people aren't, the FDA's guidelines misinform the public. To the extent that it contributes to ignorance of the risks associated with certain types of heterosexual sex, the FDA's policy, even in its revised form, actually presents a public-health concern.
On 9/11, after the towers fell to ash, I headed toward the New York Blood Center. I faced one of the most acute moral quandaries I've yet to confront: Do I lie about my identity to help my fellow brothers and sisters, or do I stay true to myself and know that the Red Cross would, by law, dispose of my blood?
The FDA's policy of banning "men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977" from donating blood does not accurately identify the behaviors that put one at risk for HIV. A policy that incorrectly identifies high-risk groups instead of high-risk behaviors is neither effective nor just.
Our 9-year-old son had come home excited that his school was having a blood drive. If we donated blood, we'd be rewarded with tickets to Legoland. As two dads, we suddenly found ourselves thrust into an unexpected conversation with our son about the FDA ban that prevents gay and bisexual men from donating blood.
On July 11 a National Gay Blood Drive will be held in the hope of raising awareness around this issue. Gay and bisexual men are urged to bring friends who can donate to blood banks to show just how much more potentially could be given -- up to 219,000 pints each year, according to a 2010 report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.