What should the 'gay blood donation' question be?

For HIV, there is a window of between three weeks and two months (for most people) between when someone gets infected and when the antibodies they test for show up. The person can still spread HIV during that time. If the blood bank used blood they donated during that time, it could infect someone with HIV.

Just to correct some misinformation here. Yes homosexuals are banned by law from giving blood. Also banned from donating any other bodily fluid or organ.

They American Red Cross does not have the option of accepting blood from men who had sex with other men since 1977 per the FDA.

Last I heard was the three largest blood banks in the US asked for a review of that policy.

Other countries such as Spain and Italy do not have a ban on gay donors and it has not proved to have a detrimental effect on their blood supply.

Arguments can be made about anonymous donation involving putting unknowing people at risk and I can even accept them. The same law that prevents gays from donating blood to blood banks also prevents them from giving directly to family and friends. Is it good policy to prevent me from giving blood to my mother or a kidney if need be? Why can’t she be given the option of knowing the risk and choosing to accept the donation? Right now if a gay donor is the only one available for a lifesaving transplant that person will end up dying. Not a good policy IMHO

Well, men that experimented when they were younger, or were raped, but who have been heterosexual (or celibate- like, if they took a vow) for twenty years is a non-zero number.

I think it’s a discriminatory question. Just ask sexual orientation-neutral questions about risky sexual behavior.

The questions are only about the behavior. Donors are not asked about their sexual orientation.

You seem to be under the impression that all discrimination is wrong. That is not correct.

Perhaps I did not explain that clearly enough. I meant a one year deferral for non-monogamous sex. Then men in long-term relationships would be able to donate. As a woman, I could knowingly have sex with man who has HIV, and I would only be deferred for a year.

The questions are for screening. For one thing, it takes time for infectious agents to show up on blood tests. For another thing, it is a waste of resources to take blood first and screen afterward without any prescreening. The bag alone can cost $50.00. I don’t work for free, either ;).

They ask men if they’ve had sex with other men. That’s a question about sexual orientation, if indirectly. Either they ban blood donors from anyone who’s ever had sex with a man since 1977 or they don’t ban any of them

And there goes the topic! :dubious:

It’s male/male sex that is a statistically higher risk than other types of sexual contact. That’s not homophobia. That’s math.


If you rode the bus from Cozumel, Mexico to the Tulum ruins, you probably don’t have malaria, but you can’t donate for a year because you traveled through an area where there is a higher risk of your contracting it. Born on a US military base in Germany in the eighties and stayed there until you were just over six months old? You’re out indefinitely on the off chance that you somehow managed to pick up Creutzfeldt-Jakob :rolleyes:. There’s a lot of overkill.

It’s anal sex that is the high risk behavior. You’d probably get many straight couples that have done that since 1977 too. Also, the question discounts monogamous homosexual relationships. It assumes gays are out cavorting with random men all the time and getting a whole host of diseases. That is why the question is wrong. It should never be asked.

Ask about promiscuity, anal sex, drug use, but don’t ask simply if they are gay.

Knowing everyone with whom you ever had sex over twenty or thirty years is becoming a relatively rare phenomenon. Anything less than that involves a risk of sexual disease transmission, and subclinical infection periods are occasionally thirty years long.

The odds on getting the Red Cross to ask “Have you taken it up the ass from any strangers recently?” are fairly slim. Anal sex and multiple partners are the sexual behaviors most associated with the spread of HIV strains prevalent in the US, and Europe for entirely physiological reasons. But attitudes toward anal sex are not so limited. In Africa, and parts of Asia, heterosexual sex seems to have a much higher associative relationship with AIDS, and a somewhat different epidemiological pattern of HIV strains.

The blood supply is also a huge repository for potential legal torts, and the supply of lawyers is effectively unlimited. You do the math.


It should be whatever the epidemiologists say it should be in order to minimize risk at reasonable cost. It is not a political question.

The thing is, male-male sex in a long-term monogamous relationship isn’t high risk, not compared to other behaviors that won’t get you excluded like having a large number of opposite-sex partners. So they’re excluding perfectly good blood for no good reason. And unless they’re lying every time they call me to donate, they could certainly use more blood.

(Frankly I suspect that part of the reason they didn’t say “Hey wait shouldn’t we make an exception for gay men who have only have been in a monogamous relationship for X years” is prejudice, but regardless, the fact that they’re excluding perfectly good blood should be reason enough to change the rule.)

You can say: But how do you know your same-sex partner isn’t sleeping with other men?" To that I say “How does a woman know her husband isn’t sleeping with men on the side?” The answer to both is you don’t know, but unless you want to exclude everyone’s blood eventually you have to trust that people know what they’re talking about.

Don’t they have to test all of the blood before injecting it into someone first?

Somewhat surprisingly, I think the way that Singapore handles it is quite mature…

Here’s the link if you want to read the full list of questions, and the reasoning.

Bear in mind, that anal sex is still illegal here…


actual question…

Male Donors: have you ever had sex with another male?


Question 4a

This is considered high-risk sexual activity. You should not donate blood for at least 12 months. If you are a regular donor, you may resume only after clearance by a screening at the end of 12 months.

The word “sex” in this question applies to vaginal, oral or anal sex, whether or not a condom or other protection was used. For more information please read “An Important Message to Blood Donors” which can be found on this website under "Publications

I think the situation is that they combine the blood from multiple donations into a larger sample, and then test that, presumably because testing each donation individually would be too expensive. So if they do end up with tainted blood, this would cause them to have to throw out a bunch of good blood as well.

By definition, all screening questions are discriminatory.

No they don’t (at least in Canada). Some testing is done in pooled samples (west nile, for ex) but HIV testing is done individually.

you can test blood all you want and some of the units are going to test negative for (disease x) yet are still capable of transmitting (disease x) due to the window period and due to the fact that no test has 100% sensitivity or specificity .

The window period varies based on the typical time needed to seroconvert (which varies by disease and by individual immune response) and the technology used in the testing method.

I think the current restrictions are overly stringent, and as the relative of two people who acquired potentially fatal blood-borne viruses from transfusions, I want to see reasonable and stringent screening.

I know people on antiretrovirals that will pass negative on an HIV test. Once they go off the antiretrovirals they again show up on the HIV tests.

They can pass HIV while showing negative for the tests.

The test therefore has limitations.