Bioethics Blogs

And the Ban Played On

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Have you taken the “Celibacy Challenge?” This satirical national campaign is in response to a proposal from the FDA that would amend the lifetime blood donation ban of men who have sex with men (MSM) to only a one-year ban. The hitch is that the men would have to refrain from sex with men for one year. They could have sex with women during that year, just not men.

This proposed one-year celibacy ban is in line with the rules of other nations. Both the U.K. and Australia have one-year bans on male-male sexual contact before donation. I guess the proposal could be stricter—Canada has a five-year ban on donating after male-male sexual activity.

Since 1983, the United States has banned men who have had sex with men, even one time, from ever donating blood. The reasoning is that the risk of HIV in this population is higher than in the general population. Of course in 1983, the term AIDS was new and the HIV virus had just been identified. AIDS was still known as that “gay” disease and everyone was scared. In 2010, 63% of new HIV infections are to men who have sex with men (MSM). But not among all MSM. It is not spread among monogamous male-male couples. Nine percent of new infections are from IV drug users. This means that 28% of new infections are among heterosexuals.

Consider that a woman who has sex with a man who had sex with a man is also banned for donating for a year (though she can have sex with other men (who are not MSM) or women during that year).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.