Welcome - Mission Statement

 • Posted by Kyle Carlson March 2011, Updated May 2013.

"The current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted."
-AABB, America's Blood Centers, and American Red Cross's 2006 Statement to the FDA's Blood Products Advisory Committee

Welcome to Saving Lives With Helpful Guys! This website is an educational resource center for policy directors, civil rights activists, students, members of the medical community, and the public at large who are dedicated to safely and sensibly reforming the Food and Drug Administration's Gay Blood Ban. Please take a moment to like us on facebook and sign these Change.org petitions: #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5 (from Red Is in the Rainbow, EqualDonor.org, All R Equal, Let Gays Give, and Banned4Life).

The Gay Blood Ban is an FDA policy that permanently bars any man who has had sex with a man since 1977 from donating blood. The FDA initiated the ban in the early 1980's as an emergency response to the HIV/AIDS outbreak in the United States to prevent the spread of HIV. Today, we know this emergency measure:

  • Does not effectively prevent HIV positive blood, gay or straight, from entering the blood supply
  • Ignores advances in HIV blood screening technology and the industry-wide implementation of blood safety operational best practices
  • Disagrees with the scientific community, medical community, and blood bank industry's criticisms and proposed reforms
  • Prevents otherwise-eligible, HIV negative men from donating blood
  • Worsens the impact of increasingly common national blood shortages
  • Reduces our nation's ability to respond to a natural disaster or terrorist attack
  • Applies overbroadly to gay men based on their sexual orientation rather than on the risk level of their sexual behavior
  • Fails to apply to a heterosexual's risky sexual behaviors; for example, not using condoms, having many sexual partners, having sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and not getting tested for HIV or other STIs
  • Unnecessarily supports stigma and negative stereotypes of LGBT people
  • Wastes taxpayer, blood bank, and hospital money on expensive discrimination lawsuits, settlements, and court orders
  • Counters the Obama Administration's view that LGBT people deserve protected class status under the constitution

The medical community has proposed several common sense reforms to this outdated policy. Ideally, the FDA would end the gay blood ban and instead use blood donor intake questionnaires that focus on risky sexual behavior, not sexual orientation. Several other countries have reformed their blood donation policies. Their experiences show that risk-based intake questionnaires increase blood donations and blood supply safety.

Educate yourself about the many problems with the Gay Blood Ban! Please access the informational materials on our Downloads page and see what else our advocacy allies have produced through our Links page. You can find recent news about the ban here. Also, check out our advocacy in an NPR Michigan Radio story by Mark Brush.

NEWSFLASH - The FDA has taken down its policy webpage that attempts to justify donor discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. You can see a cached copy of the webpage from our files. Fox35 Orlando attributes this development to Banned4Life.org, so congratulations to Banned4Life are in order!

PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD NOW CLOSED: The Department of Health and Human Services, which contains the FDA, issued a Federal Register Notice: Request for Information (RFI) on Design of a Pilot Operational Study To Assess Alternative Blood Donor Deferral Criteria for Men Who Have Had Sex With Other Men (MSM). The notice provides an excellent summary of current HHS/FDA policies, reform efforts, and reform proposals. You can review submitted comments at www.regulations.gov by searching for docket number HHS-OPHS-2012-0003.

The Role of the FDA

 • Posted by Kyle Carlson March 2011, Updated March 2012.

 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a national federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Through its Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) and its Blood Products Advisory Committee (BPAC), the FDA regulates the collection of blood and blood products in the United States and is responsible for ensuring the saftey of the blood supply. The FDA issues mandatory guidelines to blood banks and hospitals who collect the actual blood donations from citizen volunteers. The FDA imposes minimum technical standards, regularly inspects blood facilities, and requires recordkeeping and reporting.

"While a blood supply with zero risk of transmitting infectious disease may not be possible, the blood supply is safer than it has ever been. [B]iological products, blood and blood products are likely always to carry an inherent risk of infectious agents. Therefore, zero risk may be unattainable. The role of FDA is to drive that risk to the lowest level reasonably achievable without unduly decreasing the availability of this life saving resource."
FDA Center for Blood Evaluation and Research. (Accessed March 2011). Note: The FDA has since removed this webpage. See our cached copy here.

You can learn more about the FDA's organizational structure and find the specific officials with authority over blood collection policy at the FDA website. These charts explain the structure and staffing of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and its Office of Blood Research and Review.

How the Gay Blood Ban Works

• Posted by Kyle Carlson March 2011, Updated March 2012.

Under current blood donation guidelines, all volunteer potential donors must go through a "self-deferral" process. The donor must answer an extensive questionnaire before giving blood. The questions ask potential donors about their health, certain behaviors, and other factors (like travel and past transfusions) that increase their risk of infection. The questions are designed to fulfill several purposes. They inform donors about the risk of transmitting infectious diseases; help people, even those who feel well, to identify themselves as potentially at higher risk for transmitting infectious diseases; and reduce unknowing donation of possibly infected blood. However, one of the questions unnecessarily singles out gay men, and (if they answer truthfully) permanently bans them from donating blood.

Question 34: (Male Donors) From 1977 to the present, have you had sexual contact with another male, even once?
Response:
(Females: Check "I am female.")
No = Next Question.
Yes = Defer Donor Indefinitely.
Intake Questionnaire Version. 1.3 May 2008. (Accessed March 2011).

Note that the questionnaire does not define "sexual contact" directly in the question. As a result, the gay blood ban may be applied unevenly. Potential donors and medical workers have individual views on what behavior constitutes "sexual contact." Blood donation centers that poorly train their medical workers face the risk of legal liability for illegal discrimination.