The Columbia Chronicle

FDA tissue ban outdated, discriminatory

By Editorial Board

September 2, 2014

An Iowa woman is calling for the Food and Drug Administration to lift its ban on tissue donations from men who have sex with other men (MSM) after her deceased 16-year-old son’s eye and skin donations were denied because he identified as gay and she was unable to answer questions about his sexual history, according to an Aug. 12 Des Moines Register report.The FDA’s ban is a remnant of the 1980s AIDS crisis when little else was known about the disease other than its high incidence and fatality rates among sexually active gay men. Since then, stigmas attached to gayness have lessened and the advent of better HIV detection methods and treatments have rendered the FDA’s policy more bigoted than fact-based. The ban unjustly prevents gay men from making tissue donations and endangers the lives of individuals on donation lists awaiting imperative transplants.While gay and bisexual men accounted for 63 percent of new HIV infections in 2010, the remaining 37 percent can be attributed to other groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The FDA’s ban appears to be based on an outdated stereotype that only gay men can contract HIV. Because the FDA did not know the teen’s sexual history, it was assumed his identity as a gay man meant he was sexually active and therefore too great of a risk. This is an unfair assumption that the FDA applies to all gay men and MSMs.The ban seems even less logical considering that organ donations of gay men are accepted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is why the gay teen’s organs were transplanted but not the tissues. The U.S. HHS oversees the donation of organs such as the heart, kidneys and pancreas, according to its website. While organs are considered a life-saving donation and tissues considered a life-enhancing donation, according to the department’s website, all donations should be thoroughly screened for diseases and rejections should be based on medical grounds. It is the FDA’s policy to test all organ and tissue donations, according to the CDC’s website.Criticism of the FDA’s policy surrounding gay individuals shows the medical establishment is moving past the stereotype of HIV being a gay disease, as in 2013 when the American Medical Association voiced disapproval of the FDA’s lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.One tissue donor can enhance the lives of 50 people, according to the U.S. HHS’s website. Banning gay men from donating tissue negatively affects potential tissue recipients and hinders their quality of life.The FDA should consider the changing views of society and adopt a more socially tolerant attitude like other health authorities. It would prevent the FDA from treating gay people as second-class citizens and would provide those who need donations with more choices.

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