Blood Donation Rejected Because Man “Looked Gay”

In the 1980s, the Food and Drug Administration implemented a policy banning men who have sex with other men from donating blood. The policy was developed amid fears that HIV, considered exclusive to the gay male community at the time, would contaminate the nation’s blood supply.

In the decades since this policy was established, advancements in medical science have allowed donated blood to be thoroughly tested for HIV and other pathogens such as hepatitis. Yet the ban remains despite this testing, and despite the fact that HIV is no longer restricted to the gay community. As MSNBC points out,”a heterosexual man or a woman having sex with an HIV-positive partner is restricted from giving blood for one year from that contact, while gay [and bisexual] men face a lifetime ban.”

And now, it seems, this ban extends to men who “look” gay. In Gary, IN, 22 year-old Aaron Pace was recently rejected as a blood donor. Although he is heterosexual, the young man’s effeminate appearance and mannerisms apparently stray too far from one company’s definition of straight masculinity. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Bio-Blood Components Inc. denied Pace’s application to give blood because Pace “appears to be a homosexual.”

I was humiliated and embarrassed, Pace told the Sun-Times.

Curt Ellis, former director of HIV/AIDS awareness group called the Aliveness Project of Northwest Indiana, added, “The policy is based on the stigma associated with HIV that existed early on.”

“It seems like some stigmas will just never die,” he said.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services voted against recommending a repeal of the original FDA policy.

In Indiana, the State Department of Health doesn’t have its own policy for blood donation criteria. Nor do we advise blood donation centers on their individual policies, a spokesperson told the Sun-Times. Bio-Blood Components could not be reached for comment.

“Its not right that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals cant,” said Pace. “And Im not even a homosexual.”

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Photo credit: Alan Levine

144 comments

Les M.
Les M.3 years ago

i just read what i wrote and i'm not sure it made sense. this subject makes me so darn angry!

Les M.
Les M.3 years ago

what?!?! i just read the article about mexico and saw this link. i DO NOT UNDERSTAND! first of all, who cares if someone is gay? secondly, what in the world does gay look like? i wish,wish, wish, i was there when Mr. Pace tried to donate blood. unlike other issues where you can not buy a product or picket a store to make your point, you can't NOT donate blood. that won't help anyone. so what do we do? (real question.) i hope Mr. Pace is no longer embarressed that this happened but is angry that he was discriminated against, even if it was incorrect.

New G.
W. C.4 years ago

Sad, thank you.

Lynda M.
Lynda Mahoney4 years ago

What exactly does a gay person look like? I have friends that are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual... They all look like people to me.

Betsy M.
Betsy M.4 years ago

@ Sharon G, you seem to have missed the point. Your husband can't donate because he has a risk factor. Many people can't donate because of risk factors. Looking gay, even being gay is not a risk factor. IF having homosexual sex is a risk factor, then a highly masculine man who considers himself straight, but had sex with a man would be more of a risk than an effeminate looking virgin, or a sexually inactive person with gay sex orientation.

Olivia Lim
Olivia Lim4 years ago

Are they serious! Straight donors could have HIV too. Testing for HIV particles in the blood will be enough to guarantee safety, not banning gay donors. There are people who die because they don't have a good supply of blood, and it is spread too thin. How can a donor be turned away like that for "looking gay"? or even being gay?

Sharon G.
Sharon G.4 years ago

...MANY people who can

Sharon G.
Sharon G.4 years ago

What's the alternative to refusing a donation? Should they be forced to accept a donation from any person who comes by?

There is still a small window between when HIV is contracted to when it can be detected. A director of a blood center told me they have a problem with people who "made a mistake" last night (or a couple of nights ago) and donate today solely for the HIV test. They inform donors of the risk of innocent lives if they are donating to find out if they have HIV but it still happens.

My husband can't donate blood because he lived in the "wrong" parts of Europe growing up. The ban is regarding Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. He's never had symptoms or believed he was exposed. He could call it "country or region discrimination." He understands there's a tiny risk though and he's ok with not being able to donate because of it.

Discrimination happens to everyone all the time. You are always being judged based on appearance, gender, age, background, interests, etc.. Some judgments are ignorant and others aren't. I've been called a lesbian many times because I wasn't acting feminine enough, for hanging out with gay men, and because I didn't ALWAYS have a boyfriend before I got married. It doesn't hurt me. Though incorrect, I've probably benefited from it a number of times. I don't see how not being able to donate hurts the donor either (except maybe pride.) Maybe if you are restricted from donating for some reason you can encourage/remind the MANY people who ca

Anna C.
Anna Maria Co4 years ago

i'm sorry, you can't give blood because you look gay? and yet the homeless guy who looks like he might have any variance of hepatitis can? he should go back in a wig and a dress and tell them to take his blood lol.

Glen P.
Glen P.4 years ago

Absurd.

Donated blood is very thoroughly screened and heterosexuals are no less likely to carry a blood-born disease.

It's time to end this entirely discriminatory policy that only negatively impacts our scarce blood supply.