Monday, July 15, 2013

My Attempt to Donate Blood

Last week, I participated in the National Gay Blood Drive.

Despite my parents almost regularly participating, I have never donated blood. Originally, I did not donate due to thought of blood being drained out of my body and my fear of passing out. But eventually, I became no longer eligible to donate due to being considered a risk since I would be an MSM donor (men who have sex with men).

So I headed to Houston's Med Center during my lunch break, took a rapid HIV test, attempted to donate blood at the blood center with my HIV- result in hand, and was denied. The local CBS affiliate, KHOU, happened to be there and wanted to interview me about my experience (video in the link):
HOUSTON -- Opponents of a federal ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men are demonstrating around the country.
Evan Clayson believes donating blood is an “important cause.”
“I grew up in a family where my parents would donate regularly,” Clayson said.
However, Clayson is unable to donate blood because of his sexual orientation.
The FDA said its policy is "based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex."
“All we can do is tell the donors that those are the regulations,” said Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center employee Dr. Beth Hartwell. "It's what we have to follow."
Clayson disagrees with the ban.
"There is an obvious discrimination within their regulations," Clayson said.
In the national gay blood drive, potential donors who are gay men are tested for HIV first. Their test results then forwarded to the FDA hoping to show how many more donors could be out there.
The goal is to show the U.S. Food and Drug Administration how much donor blood could be added to the nation's supply if gay and bisexual men could donate. That population faces an indefinite or lifetime deferral on blood donations.
I understand why the FDA put the ban on gay men in the first place. Not much was known about AIDS and HIV when the epidemic hit its stride. But as people suffered, medical science has progressed enough to the point where we know a lot about the disease. Every blood transfusion is screened. People can be tested for HIV. And the risk of someone unknowingly donating HIV+ blood is extremely slim. I hold the belief that this ban should be based on risky sexual behavior in general. Considering the fact that the American Red Cross is often short of blood, the FDA needs to allow as many eligible people to donate as possible.