Charlene Galarneau breaks down this "form of discrimination leading to social marginalization and stigmatization" in her American Journal of Bioethics article, "Blood donation, deferral, and discrimination: FDA donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men." Galarneau attributes the FDA deferral for MSM to blatant homophobia, but rather to five distinct and subtle features of the policy: "assumed data justification, an ethically challenged regulatory process, stereotypes about sex, gender and the sexual behaviors of both men and women, a tacit notion of acceptable risk in the blood supply, and a double standard in risk tolerance" (29). The article is well thought-out and expertly supported, so I will just highlight a few of the most pertinent points to our discussion of LGBT civil rights and the history of HIV/AIDS in the gay community:
- The policy dates to March 1983, when the FDA's Office of Biologics deferred blood donations by certain high-risk groups "until the AIDS problem is resolved or definitive tests become available" (30). Though AIDS has not yet been "resolved," there are now (and long have been) tests to determine wether an individual is HIV+. This test is indeed part of the FDA's "five overlapping layers of safeguards" (30).
- Over the last ten years, criticism of the policy has mounted because of the social stigma to which it contributes. Critics of the FDA's policy include government officials, medical professionals, universities, gay rights groups, and blood banks themselves.
- The wholesale exclusion of one group based on sexual behavior is an ineffective approach to targeting infection risk in the nation's blood supply. Galarneau quotes from a 2000 meeting to consider changes to the policy: "A man who had oral sex with another man in 1979 would be excluded whereas a woman who had unprotected anal sex with the same man thirteen months ago would be allowed in the donor pool" (35).
Galarneau, Charlene. "Blood donation, deferral, and discrimination: FDA donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men." The American Journal of Bioethics 10, no. 2 (2010): 29-39.