If you’re gay, you can’t donate blood. It’s illegal. The ban was put in place in 1983, during the early days of the HIV/AIDS scare. It may have made some sense in those days, when HIV testing was less than trustworthy. But it sure doesn’t now, with modern screening technology.
Obviously, keeping HIV-positive blood out of circulation is a wise policy goal. But most gay people don’t have HIV/AIDS. Rather than screening donors for sexual preference, they should be screened for blood-borne diseases. Straight people already are. And it works quite well. Current policies are keeping healthy, willing donors out of the system.
The outdated ban could soon be coming to an end. Sen. John Kerry and 15 of his colleagues, usually more prone to passing regulations than repealing them, are urging the FDA to repeal this one. You can read their letter here.
The one disconcerting thing about the letter is that every single one of the signees is Democratic. Not one Republican joined in. That could be because Sen. Kerry and the others deliberately excluded them for political reasons. But the GOP is famously behind the curve on gay rights issues. So maybe Republicans were asked, and said no. I don’t know.
Republicans should send their own letter supporting Sen. Kerry’s position. Enlarging the pool of eligible blood donors is an unabashed good. It’s a classic gay rights issue. It’s also a health issue. Blood would be more readily available for patients who need it. Economists would add that increasing the supply of blood will lower its price – a good thing in this age of rapidly rising health care costs.