Opinion

The Fastest Way To End to the FDA’s Blood Ban Is To Lower HIV Rates

Gregory T. Angelo President, Log Cabin Republicans
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For years, activists in the gay community have been waging a war to end the decades-long ban on blood donations from any man who has had sexual relations with another man at any time since 1977. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would be taking steps to replace the policy with a one-year abstinence requirement — a move that has done little to appease opponents of the ban who want it overturned altogether.

The best – and fastest – way to end the gay blood ban? The gay community needs to take the initiative to drastically lower its HIV rate itself – and a promising new drug can get us there.

In May, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) asserted the efficacy of Truvada for HIV prevention as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). According to the CDC, “the risk of getting HIV infection was much lower — up to 92 percent lower — for those who took the medicines consistently than for those who didn’t take the medicines.”

It’s amusing to see some of the same liberal activists who have crowned President Obama “The Gay Rights President” deride the FDA – a wing of his administration – as “anti-gay.” I am no fan of government bureaucrats making healthcare decisions, and it’s no secret that I and Log Cabin Republicans, the organization for which I serve as executive director, have been critical of President Obama and his policies. But the idea that the FDA is run by a cabal of right-leaning wing-nuts determined to suppress the gay community is laughable.

As with all bureaucrats, it’s a numbers game.

Consider this: The official AIDS resource of the federal government, AIDS.gov, declares right on its homepage that, “Gay and bisexual men of all races are the most severely affected by HIV.” The Center for Disease Control (CDC) drills this down in numeric terms: “Although MSM [men who have sex with men] represent about 4 percent of the male population in the United States, in 2010, MSM accounted for 78 percent of new HIV infections among males and 63 percent of all new infections.”

And numbers have been trending up, not down. From the same CDC report: “In 2010, the estimated number of new HIV infections among MSM was 29,800, a significant 12 percent increase from the 26,700 new infections among MSM in 2008.”’

Those statistics should give everyone reason to pause — they’re certainly doing just that to the FDA.
If the gay community genuinely wants the FDA to drop the gay blood ban, we need to change the only thing keeping the FDA from doing so: the numbers.

I’m not a doctor – though I am on Truvada – but like the bureaucrats at the FDA, the numbers tell me that more gay men should be talking to their doctors about Truvada. They should also be talking to one another about it, and the potential this drug has – not only to end the gay blood ban, but to end HIV and AIDS in our lifetimes.

It’s simple, really: If incidents of HIV among gay men are at parity with the incidents of HIV among straight men, no ban, abstinence requirement, or other “discriminatory” FDA policy will stand; and no medical innovation in the past 10 years has the potential to do more to dramatically lower new incidents of HIV than Truvada.

Let’s start 2015 off right: Get tested. Talk to your doctor about Truvada. And give the FDA and those opposed to lifting the gay blood ban statistics that make it impossible for them to continue the policy.

Gregory T. Angelo is the Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans.