Did you know that every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion? Did you also know that until recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had rules regarding collecting “gay” blood? As if homosexuality isn’t stigmatized enough, amirite?

Well, presto-chango, because now, like magic, the FDA has decided that gay and bisexual blood is better than no blood, and that practicing homosexuals shouldn’t automatically be assumed to have tainted blood. So. Much. Progress.

First, it’s important to note that anyone, not just gay and bisexual men, can have HIV/AIDS or other bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis B and C, West Nile virus, or syphilis, so shouldn’t all blood be tested before pumping it into ill or injured people? I understand that asking screening questions makes sense: Are you an intravenous drug user? Have you shared a needle or had sex with an intravenous drug user? Have you had multiple sexual partners in the recent past? Do you bathe in West Nile River? Do you keep pet mosquitos?

But shouldn’t those questions apply to everyone donating blood and not just gay and bisexual men? Well, now they are, sort of.

“Now, the questionnaire asks all prospective donors, gender-inclusive, individual-based questions that assesses blood donor eligibility,” Kevin Adler, communications manager of donation center Vitalant, said. “Even if any person has had sex with multiple sexual partners within the three-month period, they’ll be asked specific questions about their sexual activity. It’s not specific to a gay or bisexual man anymore.” That’s good! Of course, there’s always a caveat.

The old guidelines required gay men to abstain from sex for at least three months prior to donating, but now if you’re in a monogamous relationship, abstention is no longer required—gay, straight, or whatever. Despite no longer asking sexuality-specific questions, the new guidelines still stress monogamy for gay and bisexual blood donors because ... why? Is it because culturally we’re still homophobic? The Vitalant questionnaire also asks donors if they had sexual contact with anyone who received “money, drugs, or other payment for sex” in the past three months. Do dinner and drinks count?

These screening questions also assume that people tell the truth, which is a little risky. 

But, just to reassure you, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says “each unit of blood donated in the United States is routinely screened for various infectious disease pathogens using FDA-approved assays.” But just to un-reassure you, Adler also admits that “the tests are not 100 percent foolproof. They’re tested to great accuracy, but there’s a percentage of risk still involved.”

Hey, blood is a risky business. 

On one hand, it kind of makes you wonder what all the fuss is about regarding homosexual donors. On the other, 100 percent certainty is better, right? Well, according to the Red Cross, “The risk of catching a virus or any other bloodborne infection from a blood transfusion is very low. All donated blood is thoroughly tested for HIV. There’s a 1 in 2 million chance that donated blood will not only carry HIV but also infect a transfusion recipient.”

Abracadabra and alakazam, don’t let me be that 1 in 2 million, man!

The Canary only needs canary blood. Send vials to [email protected].

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