While they praised the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for formalizing a policy that loosens the longstanding ban on blood donation by gay and bisexual men, LGBTQ and public health advocates on Monday said the "discriminatory" plan still leaves much to be desired.
"Blood donation policies should be based on science, not stigma."
—Kelsey Louie, Gay Men's Health Crisis
The final guidance, based on a proposal put forth by the FDA in May, says gay and bisexual men are now eligible to give blood—provided they have abstained from sex with another man for at least a year. The previous ban had been in place for approximately 30 years.
"While today was a big success, there is still a long road ahead," the National Gay Blood Drive Campaign said in a statement. "We will continue to encourage the FDA to consider all the evidence until they arrive at a non-discriminatory policy and discrimination based on sexual orientation is eliminated from the blood deferral process altogether."
Several critics noted the hypocrisy of the new policy, as it holds people of different sexual identities to different standards.
"The FDA's 12-month deferral plan would still require gay and bisexual men to be celibate for a full year before they are allowed to donate blood, regardless of marital status and safe-sex practices," said Kelsey Louie, CEO of the New York-based HIV and AIDS service organization Gay Men's Health Crisis, on Monday. "Heterosexuals are given no such restrictions, even if their sexual behavior places them at high risk for HIV."
"In practice," Louie said, "the new policy is still a continuation of the lifetime ban and ignores the modern science of HIV-testing technology while perpetuating the stereotype that all gay and bisexual men are inherently dangerous. Blood donation policies should be based on science, not stigma."
Democratic Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who serves as co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, a caucus of openly gay members of Congress, added to Reuters: "It is ridiculous and counter to the public health that a married gay man in a monogamous relationship can't give blood, but a promiscuous straight man who has had hundreds of opposite sex partners in the last year can."