For decades the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had a strict policy against retrieving blood from gay men. This fear is mostly based on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) seeping into the blood supply. This dates all the way back to 1983, two years after HIV and AIDS were first clinically documented. Despite medical advancements that allow more accurate screening of all individuals wishing to donate blood, the stigma for gay men persists to this day.
The FDA implies that gay men are risky, so much so that they are lumped together with populations that may carry mad-cow disease and those who employ syringes to get high. Somehow being a gay man means you are too "dirty" to donate your blood to save lives, even when the national blood supplies are low.
Although there are some countries that find excluding gay men from donating blood archaic, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland are in line with the U.S. policy. Italy and Spain no longer target gay men, and in Australia, Brazil and Japan a 12-month deferment post-sexual-contact is in place for gay men and anyone, male or female, who has had sex with them.
In the U.S., straight men are free to donate even when their risks are the same as a gay man. In fact, in 40 states across America, it is legal to get a tattoo and run off to donate, but you are barred if you are a gay man. The FDA also states that straight men who seek to donate their blood must be free of STIs within the last 12 months before proceeding -- this includes sleeping with prostitutes.
But STIs are rampant and do not discriminate, no matter the sexual preference, age or gender.
Testing everyone is relatively simple nowadays. For example, nucleic-acid testing (NAT) is capable of detecting the most minute traces of HIV, and it only takes 10 days to receive the result, thus making the lengthy wait for results a thing of the past.
The FDA isn't alone in its antiquated views of gay men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) goes a bit further, isolating gay men with a simple code, "MSM," which stands for "men who have sex with men." According to the CDC, MSM account for approximately 63 percent of all new HIV infections in the U.S.
Currently, blood banks test every single donation for eight major diseases, even West Nile virus. There is no excuse for anyone dying because the FDA feels the needs to continue their discrimination.
There is a consistent theme a few times a year when blood banks are pleading for blood donations and the FDA continues to fail them.