I have a rare blood type, so I'm a very frequent donor. They have called me the very day I became eligible again claiming to have an immediate need and asking I come in that very day. For that reason I follow the blood donation "industry" (for the lack of a better term).
I'm not saying any of this is right or wrong. I'm just stating the situation as I best understand it without any value judgment.
The FDA reviews their policies periodically. They have continued to look at the question involving homosexual relationships. The problem is statistically gay men have significantly higher (I've seen 10 times higher being quoted) rates of not only HIV but other blood borne illnesses such as hepatitis. Until this number falls more in line with the general population, the FDA will not drop it. I'm not claiming that's true or false, but that's what the FDA has said both under Bush's and Clinton's administrations.
People who inject drugs not prescribed to them by a doctor (could be illegal drugs or legal drugs not prescribed to them) may not donate blood. It's possible an IV drug user is using clean needles and has no health issues outside his drug addiction. But since IV drug users have significantly higher rates of blood borne disease, they are automatically disqualified.
There are many, many more heterosexual men in the population than gay men and IV drug users combined. One heterosexual male in the pool isn't going to raise the baseline much, but one homosexual male with HIV makes more of an impact to that subset of the population because it's a smaller population. For instance if you have 100 gay men in one corner and 1,000 straight men in the other. One from each is HIV positive. The homosexual group automatically has ten-times the infection rate of the straight men.
I, as a non-drug using heterosexual male, could go out and have unprotected sex with half the women in Austin and still be eligible to donate. That's a little scary. The only thing that might disqualify me is the question "Have you had sex with anyone who has tested positive for HIV or the AIDS virus?". Truthfully I would have to answer "I don't know." which would disqualify me. But by the same token, a man could be in a monogamous relationship with another monogamous man and both have 100% clean blood, but they can't donate.
I don't know if the FDA policy makes sense. I am against discrimination based on sexual orientation. But I don't believe the FDA rules are "anti-gay". They're trying to protect the public. Yes, their logic is flawed. But I don't see the FDA as being full of homophobes. Cynics will claim that if gays would stop being so promiscuous, this wouldn't be a problem. Sympathizers will claim the FDA needs to do a better job of testing the blood and not relying on what people tell them (remember, anyone regardless of status could lie their pants off during the interview).
John Mayson Austin, Texas, USA[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I do not believe Red Cross takes blood from anyone without thoroughly testing it. Why not just take blood from all would-be donators and toss it out in the testing process as required? And although some gay men are promiscuous, far many more live quiet lives in monogamy with _one_ partner. The ones you hear about are the promiscuous ones. I certainly agree the Red Cross logic on this is very flawed, with hurtful results for many otherwise innocent men. PAT]