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Outrage among people as US policy Bans Blood Donations by LGBT Community

The laws restrict homosexual people from donating blood if they have been sexually active within the past one year

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Gay Pride Flag. Image source:jarridwilson.com
  • Government turned away thousands of people including homosexuals who wanted to donate blood after the Orlando Shooting
  • The Federal ban policy was put in place in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic, and it barred gay and bisexual men 
  • FDA ban excludes the remaining 85 percent of gay men who would be suitable and safe blood donors

Thousands of people, including homosexuals, lined up to donate blood after the Orlando nightclub shooting. However, due to US government laws, they were turned away. The laws restrict homosexual people from donating blood if they have been sexually active within the past one year.

This caused anger and resentment among the gays. They are calling for the lifting of this federal ban.

Candlelight vigil for the Orlando nightclub shooting held at Morningside Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wikimedia commons
Candlelight vigil for the Orlando nightclub shooting held at Morningside Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wikimedia commons

The policy was put in place in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic, and it barred gay and bisexual men from donating blood out of fear that they were at high risk of being HIV-positive and could contaminate the blood supply.

Last year in 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revised the policy, allowing contributions provided the gay men had been celibate for one year.

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Scientific developments

Public health advocates, who argued for lifting the blood donation ban last year in 2015, say the policy does not keep pace with some recent scientific developments to safeguard the blood supply against HIV.

Sean Cahill, director of health policy research at the Fenway Institute in Boston, said the revised policy is still unfair. The Fenway Institute does public health advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community.

According to Cahill, the so-called nucleic acid test is now available to detect the presence of HIV in a pint of blood in less than two weeks, compared with the months it used to take. The test is performed on all blood samples to make sure they don’t contain the virus.

Cahill said the second development involves a method of destroying most pathogens in blood, be they bacteria or viruses, including the AIDS virus.

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“Even if somehow an HIV-positive unit of blood gets through the systems that are in place, this pathogen inactivation technology could destroy the HIV in that unit of blood,” Cahill said.

Cahill said the one-year ban doesn’t allow for those males who are in monogamous relationships or who are happily married and are HIV-negative.

People in other high-risk groups are not barred from giving blood, according to Cahill. These individuals include those who have intercourse with sex workers, or intravenous drug abusers who may be donating blood in exchange for money to buy drugs.

Call for updated policy

Cahill called for a more refined blood donation policy.

“We would really like to see a policy that … distinguishes between high-risk gay and bisexual men and low-risk gay and bisexual men, and actually looks at individual risk as opposed to looking at people as members of groups.”

Cahill explained that 15 percent of gay men are HIV-positive in the U.S., but the FDA ban excludes the remaining 85 percent of gay men who would be suitable and safe blood donors. He also said that the supply of banked blood nationwide would increase by 2%-4% if this ban was lifted. He explained that it would also ease the social stigma that the gays feel in US.

prepared by Devika Todi (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: devika_todi

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  • AJ Krish

    This is outrageous.Why deny those who genuinely care and want to donate blood? The law needs to be changed.

  • Ashwati Menon

    HIV virus is a disease that can be transmitted human to human not gay to humans!Homosexuals are also human beings! What kind of democracy are they practicing if all are not given equal rights?

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US: CDC Identifies 193 Potential Cases of Severe Lung Illness Tied to Vaping in 22 States

E-cigarettes are generally thought to be safer than traditional cigarettes, which kill up to half of all lifetime users

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US, CDC, Vaping
FILE - A high school student uses a vaping device near the school's campus in Cambridge, Mass., April 11, 2018. VOA

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that it had identified 193 potential cases of severe lung illness tied to vaping in 22 states as of Aug. 22, including one adult in Illinois who died after being hospitalized.

The CDC has been investigating a “cluster” of lung illnesses that it believes may be linked to e-cigarette use, although it has not yet been able to establish whether they were in fact caused by vaping.

E-cigarettes are generally thought to be safer than traditional cigarettes, which kill up to half of all lifetime users, according to the World Health Organization. But the long-term health effects of vaping are largely unknown.

No link to specific product

US, CDC, Vaping
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that it had identified 193 potential cases of severe lung illness tied to vaping in 22 states as of Aug. 22, including one adult. Pixabay

In a briefing with reporters, representatives from health agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said they have not linked the illnesses to any specific product and that some patients had reporting vaping with cannabis liquids.

Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said the agency was analyzing product samples from states to identify any potentially harmful elements that may be triggering the illnesses.

He said health agencies were trying to learn which specific vaping products were used and whether they were being used as intended or mixed with other substances.

“Those kinds of facts need to be strung together for every single one of these cases, so that we can see if any other kinds of patterns have emerged,” Zeller said.

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The number of potential cases has more than doubled over the past week. On Aug. 17, the CDC said it was investigating 94 potential lung illnesses in 14 states.

Brian King, deputy director of research translation at the CDC’s smoking and health division, said it was possible there might have been earlier cases that health agencies had not identified.

Possible health implications

“The bottom line is that there’s a variety of things in e-cigarette aerosols that could have implications for lung health,” said King, adding that none of those compounds had been directly linked to the recent hospitalizations.

US, CDC, Vaping
The CDC has been investigating a “cluster” of lung illnesses that it believes may be linked to e-cigarette use, although it has not yet been able to establish whether they were in fact caused. Pixabay

In a statement Thursday, Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said he was “confident” the illnesses were being caused by devices containing cannabis or other synthetic drugs, not nicotine.

Patients have reported difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and sometimes chest pain before being hospitalized. Some have shown symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue.

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“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement earlier. (VOA)