Letter to the Editor, April 14, 2011

Brian C. Hellwig

Dear Editor,


I was glad to see your editorial titled “Blood donation constraint should be evaluated.” However, it contained a pretty significant factual error. You stated that there is “a 12-month deferral” period. This is incorrect. The FDA regulations actually state that any man who has had sex with another man (MSM), even once, since 1977, is permanently deferred from ever donating blood in the United States.

There are five countries that have such a 12-month MSM deferral period: Argentina, Australia, Hungary, Japan and Sweden. South Africa has a six-month MSM deferral period. In 2008 Russia’s Ministry of Health and Social Development actually repealed their country’s ban that prohibited gay individuals from donating blood. The countries of Italy, Spain and France screen their blood donors for high-risk sexual practices rather than simply for MSM behavior.

The FDA’s current discriminatory and homophobic MSM blood donation policy is outdated and simply is not supported by much of the scientific and blood donation community. In 2005 the American Red Cross and other major blood donation operators, including Lifeshare (the two major blood donation organizations on the Kent State campus), sent a letter to the FDA opposing the current MSM blood donation ban.

If organizations and offices on the KSU campus host blood drives without making students, faculty and staff aware of the FDA’s discriminatory blood donation policy towards gay and bisexual men, then are these organizations actually supporting such a policy? As a gay employee of the university, that’s certainly a question that I have been asking.



Brian C. Hellwig

Coordinator, Residential Safety & Security

Department of Residence Services

Kent State University