Lance Bass wants to donate blood to help the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, but he can't. Why? Because he's gay and has sex. Yeah. There's a law banning gay men from donating blood that was instated during the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s. Members of the LGBTQ+ community frequently voice their frustration over the fact that they are not allowed to donate blood due to this FDA law many believe to be outdated, unnecessary, and discriminatory. On Tuesday, Oct. 2, Lance Bass called out the FDA law banning gay men from donating blood on Twitter, saying he can't believe it's still illegal for him to donate. He said, "How is it STILL illegal for gays to donate blood??!! I want to donate and I'm not allowed."
The law states that any men who sleep with men (MSM) cannot donate blood for 12 months following their last sexual encounter. So if you're gay, bi, or trans and want to donate blood to the Las Vegas shooting victims but have had sex with a man recently, you can't. Not for another year, at least. And you can't have sex with a man during that year if your goal is to donate blood. Many people see the FDA's blood donation law as discriminatory, and Bass is one of many speaking out against the law in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday, Oct. 1.
The law was instated in 1983 because the FDA believed gay men had the highest risk of contracting HIV. When it was first instated, it was instated as a lifetime ban. In 2015, for the first time since it was created, the FDA changed the law to add the 12-month deferment policy so gay men could donate blood, just not before a year had passed since their last sexual encounter. Slight improvement, but not enough in the eyes of those this laws impacts. Although the FDA did change the rules in 2015, it still is of the belief that gay men "have the highest HIV risk."
When it comes to women and transgender men and women, there are some instances in which they will be turned away from donating blood under this law. The law states that women who have sex with women (WSW) are able to donate, but women will be turned away if they have recently (within the last 12 months) had sex with a man who has also recently had sex with a man. As for transgender men and women, transgender men previously eligible to donate as women may be turned away if they have had sex with another man within the last 12 months. Transgender women who have sex with men may be able to donate blood as long as they meet the other donation requirements.
At the time of the AIDs epidemic, little was known about the virus, so precautions were taken in the hopes of quelling the spread of it. But not much has been changed about the law even though science and medicine have given us a whole new world of information about the virus since the '80s epidemic.
According to the American Red Cross, the 12-month deferment policy is still necessary because although blood testing for the infection “has greatly improved, it is not 100 percent effective at detecting infectious diseases in donors with very early infection.” The American Red Cross cites the 12-month deferment policy as "adequate time for the detection of infected individuals.” The American Red Cross's website states that it recognizes and understands that there is a "difference between biological sex and gender." It also cites the FDA's "Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products" guidance that says, “In the context of the donor history questionnaire, FDA recommends that male or female gender be taken to be self-identified and self-reported.”
With 58 people killed and over 500 people injured, the Las Vegas shooting has become the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history.