What should the 'gay blood donation' question be?

inspired by this thread
OK, so if you are a man trying to donate blood in the US, they ask you, “have you had sex with another man, even once, since 1977?”

A lot of people think that’s unreasonable. Young gay and bisexual men are the only group among whom HIV infection is growing (warning - PDF). Still, prostitute-usage and sharing needles are (I think) only a one-year suspension from blood donation (I think).

What should the question(s) be about identifying high-risk HIV-infection groups, to keep the blood supply HIV-free?

If current donors organized a boycott against donating until the question(s) changed, would it affect any change? Do current donors have a moral responsibility to try to affect change? Is it outweighed by the moral responsibility to give blood if you can?


I think it should be a blanket one year ban after participating in any high risk sexual behavior heterosexual or homosexual.

Define “high risk sexual behavior”.

Unprotected sex or sex with a high risk group. Prostitutes, intervenes drug users, those infected with a STD would be examples of high risk.

what I find unreasonable is that if they are in a committed relationship and have been monogamous since before 77, they still cant donate, whereas some one can have slutted around heterosexually until some random time 2 years ago can donate.

Frankly, if someone can pass the HIV/STD test, suck the blood out of them. I don’t care who they sleep with.

The real risk is having lots of partners, or having sex with someone who has had lots of partners. If you and your partner are completely monogamous, nothing you do in bed is going to put you at any risk whatsoever for HIV. Doesn’t matter what sex you are or your partner is.

The problem, of course, is that it’s hard to be absolutely sure that your partner is monogamous.

I think a good criterion would be:

  1. No sex for money or other payment.

  2. No IV drug use not prescribed by a doctor.

  3. Either monogamous (homosexual or heterosexual) with a partner who is, to the best of your knowledge, also monogamous OR you used a condom with no evidence of breakage or leakage every time you had sex, for the past two years.

Some sort of limit on the number of sex partners you’ve had over the past two years or since your most recent negative HIV test might be reasonable, as well.

If you had become infected with HIV wouldn’t you still be infected a year later?

I would like to see it changed to one year deferral for non-monogamous male-to-male sexual contact (whether protected or not- that is never a factor in any sexual contact questions). That would put it in the same category as other statistically higher risk behaviors. I work in blood, and I hate to turn people down for that reason. I always try not to embarrass them.

It disappoints me when people refuse to donate because they disagree with current FDA regulations. That hurts the people who need blood, gay men included.

[quote=“bup, post:1, topic:529215”]

inspired by this thread
Still, prostitute-usage and sharing needles are (I think) only a one-year suspension from blood donation (I think).


Using a needle even once since 1980 for drugs not prescribed for you by a physician is an indefinite deferral, as is taking payment for sex since 1977. Paying for sex is one year.

The problem is that the number of partners is not as important as the type of sex. Before we met, both my partner and I had sex with literally thousands of men. But I have never had an STD, and he had only one . . . back when he was a teenager . . . that was cured by penicillin.

So they may have to ask more than one question.

Couldn’t the date be moved up at least?
Is it possible to have contracted HIV in 1978 and not know it yet? 22 years later? I can see that date being legitimate in 1985 (when the Red Cross started asking it) but now?

Does it really matter? I would imagine most people who have sex with men on a regular basis don’t just stop doing so at some random point under most normal circumstances. A different date wouldn’t really change things much. Also, the latency period for HIV can indeed reach or surpass 22 years in some rare cases.

But how do you know the test is accurate or timely? You only need to look at the pron industry, which has nearly universal testing, to see that testing will not prevent the outbreak of STDs (including HIV). There have been 22 cases in the last 5 years despite relatively effective testing.

The reality is that being in a high-risk group, or engaging in risky behavior will almost always lead to the spread of disease despite precautions and testing. Unfortunately, having sex with men falls into that category based on a number of factors. The question should be why this policy should be changed? I don’t hear people lobbying to allow those who have received a dura mater (brain covering) transplant or human pituitary growth hormone to donate.

I think the idea is that, by then, you’d definitely test positive. The test doesn’t actually detect HIV, but the antibodies your body develops. And that takes a bit. You are actually advised to wait 2 months after when you suspect you were infected to be tested, and are not considered 100% certain to be clear until three or six months.

My source is this AIDS fact sheet.

Well, I do not actually know anybody who has had a dural membrane transplant, so I have no opinion on it, and I didn’t actually know that HPGH recipients were banned from donating.

Why are the growth hormone patients banned? If they are not currently getting shot up, why should it matter? How long does it linger in the bloodstream?

I can’t answer the first question since I don’t know the statistical risks for each behaviour. I’m perfectly happy for CBS (Canadian Blood Services) to be as conservative as they can while still getting enough donations to fill the demand; especially given the reason for CBS’s creation. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/activit/com/krever-eng.php

But even if the non-virginal-gay-men exclusion is motivated buy purely bigoted reasons that only** increases** the moral responsibility for the eligible to donate.

How does this change anything? Are the numbers of gay men who only get laid once a year so large that this will be a meaningful change? Frankly, the restrictions on blood donation have always puzzled me: isn’t the blood already tested prior to being used in a hospital? Why even bother with these questions?

It’s been suspected that reciepients of HPGH have gotten Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease as a result. Either way, my point was that Red Cross blood guidelines are overly restrictive on purpose. Not just as a means to keep the blood supply safe, but also to manage public perception. There probably isn’t a good reason to have a one-year ban on people who received tattoos, or have lived in the UK for 6+months, but it does indeed make us all safer. Here are the eligibility requirements btw.

I don’t see the issue here. Blood donees can exclude whoever they want. They have no obligation to accept blood from anyone who wants to donate.

If they aren’t getting enough donations, they can change their criteria to balance the amount of blood donated, the safety of the blood received, and the costs associated with testing and handling it.

The people listed aren’t “banned” from giving blood, they are asked to not give. The point here, from what I understand, is that testing the blood for possible problems isn’t worth the effort in some cases, like if the donor has unprotected sex or visits a malarial country.

I was asked years ago to stop giving because I have a protein that triggers the initial HIV screening. Don’t have HIV, I just trigger the basic test. Sure they could test further and decide that my blood is actually OK but that is expensive. They did it once and contacted me about it and they don’t want to do that again. I’ve been asked to not donate organs for the same reason.

It’s not about fairness to the blood donor.

It’s about ensuring the safety and ready availability of the blood supply at a cost that’s not prohibitive.