One Brave Man Is Abstaining From Sex For A Year To Protest FDA Blood Donation Bans On Gay Men

There were many frustrating and tragic aspects of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando last week. One of which was that trauma centers were asking for blood donations to help save victims’ lives, and in a sick irony, federal regulations prevented gay males from donating blood if they had been sexually active within the last year. Most of the victims identified as LGBTQ and, in theory, their LGBTQ friends couldn’t donate blood to help them. This is precisely why one man abstaining from sex to be a blood donor is such an interesting protest. Jay Franzone, who also works as a blood donation advocate, told Buzzfeed News it’s a personal thing. His boyfriend probably takes it personal, too, but it’s a good fight.

The laws about blood donation are discriminatory and stupid, though some (very small) steps have been taken recently to allow gay men to donate blood. Whereas they used to be banned for life, gay men can now donate if they’ve not had sex in the last year — hence Franzone’s timeframe. But the change isn’t enough. When the revised guidelines were released in December 2015, National Gay Blood Drive said in a statement, “While many gay and bisexual men will be eligible to donate their blood and help save lives under this 12 month deferral, countless more will continue to be banned solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and without medical or scientific reasoning.”

Uh, yea. The regulation is based on really bad science and is a terrible public health message to spread around. It’s all attached to the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDs as a gay man’s disease. But it’s not a gay man’s disease — although gay and bisexual men accounted for 68 percent of new HIV infections in the United States in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), HIV affects everyone. A heterosexual man or woman could be HIV positive and slip through the cracks by not disclosing, or simply not knowing they are positive, and donating blood. If you’re a heterosexual man or woman and you don’t use condoms or any kind of protection, you are also at a high risk for HIV, so the real question they should be asking everyone is whether or not they’ve had unprotected sex.

Since the Orlando shooting highlighted this problem (that many people, even some LGBTQ advocates, didn’t seem to know about), 109 members of Congress have written a letter to the FDA to change the policy that Anthony Hayes, vice president of public affairs and policy for Gay Men’s Health Crisis, said “is based on the ’80s, when fear and hysteria ruled.

Advocating to change the regulations about gay or bisexual people donating blood is threefold — it’s about increasing the amount of blood donations in the country, not discriminating against gay men because you think being gay means being HIV positive, and educating sexually active adults on how HIV is actually transmitted. 

There is so much misinformation surrounding the risks and realities of HIV because of its association with the LGBTQ community, and it’s dangerous for the FDA to not recognize that. The CDC has found that 90 percent of all new infections could be prevented if people would just grow up and get fucking tested (and not think their sexuality or gender prohibits them from being at risk).

National HIV Testing Day is June 27 — go do it. And then go have some safe sex for Franzone, since he’s holding out to donate blood next year.