Lifting the ban on gay men donating blood

The World

Gay men have been banned from donating blood since 1983. But now, a group of senators led by John Kerry are petitioning to put an end to the 27-year-old ban.

There were/are approximately 15,000-20,000 hemophiliacs in the U.S. 100% of them contracted hepatitis in the late 1960s and early 1970s when their medication (factor concentrate) was brought to the market. 10,000 of them were then infected when HIV emerged in the early 1980s because of this drug. In 1983, a ban was instituted to prohibit any gay man who had sex since 1977 from ever giving blood. Filmmaker Marilyn Ness explored the history of the ban in her documentary, “Bad Blood.”

Arthur Caplan is the Emanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and the former chair of the Advisory Committee to the Department of Health and Human Services on Blood Safety and Availability (1996-2001). He agreed with the ban back in the ’80s: “We didn’t have the technology to test the blood properly, to make sure it was safe. But we have the technology now, and we can properly test the blood. So it makes no sense to keep this ban.”

Many members of Capitol Hill agree with Caplan, and led by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), have been fighting to have the ban lifted. The Federal Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability are scheduled to meet to discuss the issue, and after almost three decades, gay men may be able to legally donate blood once again.

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