(Pace's) looks, character and behavior prompted a blood donation center to reject him when he tried to donate blood recently and he’s miffed, to say the least. “I was humiliated and embarrassed,” said Pace, 22. of Gary. “It’s not right that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals can’t. And I’m not even a homosexual.”Pace's rejection is pretty troubling. I can understand why the FDA is concerned about letting certain populations donate blood and blood products, even if I don't agree with them. But there is no reason to deny someone to opportunity to donate blood because they look gay. Maybe Bio-Blood is awash in blood and can afford to reject eligible blood donors. But Pace doesn't appear to meet the rejection criteria and frankly, even if he is indeed gay, there is still no reason to reject his blood unless he has actually been sexually active with another man.
Pace visited Bio-Blood Components Inc. in Gary, which pays for blood and plasma donations, up to $40 a visit. But during the interview screening process, Pace said he was told he could not be a blood donor there because he “appears to be a homosexual.”
No one at Bio-Blood returned calls seeking comment, but donation centers like it, and even the American Red Cross, are still citing a nearly 30-year-old federal policy to turn away gay men from donating. The Food and Drug Administration policy, implemented in 1983, states that men who have had sex — even once — with another man (since 1977) are not allowed to donate blood.
The policy was sparked by concerns that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was tainting the blood supply. And, back then, screening tests to identify HIV-positive blood had not yet been developed. Today, all donated blood is tested for HIV, as well as for hepatitis B and C, syphilis and other infectious diseases, before it can be released to hospitals. This is why gay activists, blood centers including the American Red Cross, and even some lawmakers now claim the lifetime ban is “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”
My own church used to host blood donation events every so often with the American Red Cross. This was back when I used to work part-time as the church's secretary. I came to work one of those days and my pastor commended me for coming in to donate blood. His praise turned to shock shortly afterwards when I told him that I wasn't there to donate blood. "Why not?," he asked. "Because, I'm a HIV-negative, monogamous, sexually active gay man. They don't want my blood." He then began questioning the Red Cross volunteers why I couldn't donate blood. They told him that they personally didn't care, but that their hands were tied because of FDA regulations.
This is a stupid rule, in my opinion. The FDA gay blood ban might seem wise, but it doesn't actually consider risk factors. It doesn't consider what kinds of sexual activities that individual gay and bi men engage in or how risky those activities are for contracting HIV or other diseases. It doesn't consider whether or not someone has been repeatedly tested for HIV or if they are monogamous. It doesn't consider how long ago individual men were sexually active with other men. And, if the Aaron Pace situation is to be fully believe, it doesn't even consider whether or not gay men or perceived gay men were actually sexually active with other men. Gay men and our blood are just automatically rejected. Period.
Meanwhile, I could go to a blood donation center and lie about being sexually active with another man and they would take my blood (as long as I don't look gay). They will screen my blood along with every other donor and find no trace of any blood disease. And they will be glad that someone cared enough to donate his blood to someone in need.
I understand the need to prevent donations from people with known blood-borne diseases. But they need to lighten up a bit with donations from those who aren't sick, especially if they are already regularly testing their blood supplies. The FDA needs to stop assuming that all gay and bisexual men have HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis. As more gay men get married and practice monogamous lifestyles, the FDA needs to recognize that these potential donors are more safe than not, especially if these men don't sleep with other men outside of the family and if they have been tested regularly for diseases. Either way, this 35-year-old FDA blood ban needs to get updated.