There is no reason for the ban on gay men donating blood to exist, emphasized Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies.
There is no reason for the ban on gay men donating blood to exist anymore, given that all blood is tested, emphasized Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies.
This video excerpt is part of our third entry in a series on individuals and international organizations working to bring local and global awareness to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is marking its 40th anniversary this year. For previous videos with Dr Halkitis, click here.
What needs to happen for the ban on gay men donating blood to end?
We need to stop discriminating. I mean, there's no reason whatsoever this ban needs to exist at all. Blood is tested, right? It's tested all the time. So I don't understand why we think that a gay man who has sex is going to be… The probability that he will be infected, I understand from an epidemiological perspective, is higher given the prevalence of the disease in the population—but we test the blood anyway.
I think the damage we're doing by stigmatizing gay men is much worse than the “protections” we're putting in place. So the FDA ban, in my mind, needs to go away. We have the technology to test blood, and quite frankly, I don't know what's in the blood of other people that we're not testing for, right? So why continue to ostracize gay men?
If you think about the HIV epidemic in the United States, African American women and the African American population is adversely affected by HIV. Can you imagine if we had a ban on Black people, telling them they couldn't donate blood? But we think it's okay—which I'm not saying we should; that would be god-awful—we somehow think it's okay to tell gay people they can't donate blood because they've had sex, which is, by the way, a denial of their identities and their sexual lives. So let's get rid of this.
The whole thing is, also, if we think about HIV criminalization, there are 30 states left in the country where if you know your status, and you potentially expose somebody to HIV, you can be criminalized. Okay, so if you don't know your status, you can't be? But in fact, if you don't know your status, you're probably more infectious than if you do know your status. Because if you do know your status, you’re probably on medications, which makes you not infectious. So that whole thing is nonsense. And then, I keep flipping this around saying, “Oh, but what about the people who don't wear masks who are spreading COVID-19?” Which is much, much, much easier to transmit than HIV. Let's remember, 550,000 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 in 1 year, 720,000 deaths from HIV over 40 years, right. So yeah.