Chicago Sun-Times Examines Exclusion of Men Who Have Sex With Men From Blood, Bone Marrow Donor Programs
The Chicago Sun-Times on Monday examined the exclusion of men who have sex with men from blood and bone marrow donor programs because of perceived increased risk of HIV. The National Marrow Donor Program and blood banks follow FDA guidelines that have excluded MSM from donating blood since 1985. An FDA advisory committee in 2000 voted 7-6 against amending the ban to allow men to donate blood if they had not had sex with a man in the previous five years. Sex workers and their clients are allowed to donate blood if they have not had sex in the past year, according to the Sun-Times. Dr. David Pitrak, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago, said that he is "shocked" that the restrictions remain on MSM who wish to donate blood or marrow, adding, "We have pretty much eliminated transfusion-associated HIV infection." Although all donated blood and bone marrow undergoes "strict" HIV testing, a recently infected person can test negative for up to six months after infection, according to the Sun-Times. The FDA in 2000 estimated that if all MSM who had not had sex in the last five years were allowed to donate blood, 1.7 units of HIV-infected blood would enter the blood supply undetected. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association said that the guidelines could cause some MSM to "experience personal frustration and shame by being unfairly stigmatized in work and social settings" (Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, 11/10).
Guidelines Deny Opportunity To Save Lives
The guidelines preventing MSM from donating blood "den[y] an entire segment of the population the opportunity to give their blood and save lives," college student Mike Riegel writes in an Orlando Sentinel opinion piece. If MSM were allowed to participate in blood drives, "the number of donations could have increased dramatically and so could the eventual number of lives saved by their blood," Riegel says. Regardless of one's stance on "whether homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle," saving lives should "supersede our own personal biases." Riegel concludes that it is "time to leave the early '80s behind us" and remove restrictions on MSM giving blood (Riegel, Orlando Sentinel, 11/9).