WESTWOOD—On November 22 at 7:30 p.m., the Hammer Museum partnered with UCLA to conduct a panel on the issue of blood donations within the gay and bisexual community, about a week before National AIDS Day.
In this panel, organized by artist Jordan Eagles, the issue of “blood equality” was discussed, as the FDA currently bans gay and bisexual men from donating blood unless they have been celibate for at least one year before making their donation.
Mark Joseph Stern, a writer for Slate.com began the discussion with some background information, discussing how AIDS targeted the gay community when it was first discovered in the 1980s, causing the ban. Technology for detecting the disease has “progressed incredibly.” Another panelist, Brad Sears, a lawyer, and director of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law indicated that the policy was not based on research or science.
During the discussion, Dr. Jeffrey Klausner (MD) predicted that the FDA will not lessen the ban from the one year period, as it gives a very large sized window of time to assess whether or not a gay male has contracted the disease. He stated that it takes about 7 to 10 days after the person has had sex for accurate testing to determine whether he/she has contracted HIV.
Stern brought up the issue of discrimination to the group of panelists, Kelsie Louie, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis commented that the ban carries a discriminatory nature, which perpetuates more discrimination. He also states that the stigma of the policy “brings us back to the 80’s, it’s treating HIV as if it were a gay disease and we have long understood that it’s not.”
Some in the LGBT community met with the FDA regarding the issue. Louie points out that the administration is addressing the issue, and plans to take the necessary steps in the future that will inform the policies through conducting the research that was never done when the policy was implemented.
The FDA’s website contains a list of recommendations for donor referral, which are not limited to gay men. The list addresses multiple groups with risk factors including: individuals who have injected non-prescribed drugs, individuals who have exchanged sex for money or drugs, individuals who have received an allogeneic blood transfusion and people who have received a tattoo or piercing within the past year, with exceptions.