Photo Credit: Getty ImagesActivists are organizing the first national gay blood drive Friday in an effort to combat the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
The FDA bans donations from men who have had sex with other men since 1977, saying there is an increased risk of exposure to and transmission of infectious diseases — including HIV — in male-to-male sexual encounters.
“FDA uses multiple layers of safeguards in its approach to ensuring blood safety,” the government agency’s website says. The FDA screens all potential blood donors based on risk factors and signs of infections.
Blood banks have been instructed to ask male donors if they have ever had sex with a man. If the potential donor responds “yes,” he is instantly removed from the donor pool for life.
The policy started in the 1980s when people didn’t know how the deadly virus that causes AIDS spread. At the time, there wasn’t a good test to detect whether HIV was present in donated blood, and HIV was getting into the nation’s blood supply. Scientists also knew that a disproportionate number of gay men were affected by the virus.
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