OU graduate student petitioning FDA to permit gay men to donate blood, backed by student groups
Chunchun Zhu, The Oklahoma Daily
AT A GLANCE
When one Sooner came out as a gay man almost a year ago, he found out some disheartening news — he couldn’t donate blood ever again during his lifetime if he had sex with another man.
“It kind of hurt me,” business graduate student Michael Hernández said. “You can’t go the next step that seems natural in every other relationship, and the punishment to follow your true feelings with the person you love is to be banned from saving other people’s lives.”
Hernández created a petition to change the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s policy barring gay men from giving blood, and Sooners gathered Wednesday to sign the petition in a conjunction with the Oklahoma Blood Institute’s annual Bedlam Blood Drive.
The LGBTQ Program Advisory Board and UOSA sponsored the push for signatures and partnered with the Oklahoma Blood Institute to host the We Give Because They Can’t blood drive event, said Kasey Catlett, spokesman for Women’s Outreach Center.
Hernández stood on the South Oval next to an Oklahoma Blood Institute tent with his petition on a clipboard Wednesday. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, he had gotten approximately 200 people to sign the petition stating the FDA should remove the current policy and replace it with a more lenient one-year deferral policy, similar to what is practiced in the United Kingdom, Hernández said.
The policy Hernández is advocating would allow gay men to donate blood, provided they haven’t had sex with another man for at least a year, he said.
The one-year deferral policy would open up the eligible donating pool to 160,000 men who would be willing and able to donate, Hernández said.
According to the America’s Blood Centers website, one pint of blood can save up to three lives. If the 160,000 willing men donated blood, up to 480,000 lives could be saved.
The deferral policy is similar to the one already in practice for people who have had anonymous sex, according to the FDA website.
Hernández wants to get 1 million signatures on his petition and then plans to present it to the FDA. As of Wednesday morning, approximately 6,550 people had signed, he said.
The advisory board and UOSA decided to host the event to sign the petition instead of boycotting the blood drive because it would be irresponsible, Catlett said.
“Blood donations help so many people that our own political and societal views should not diminish the need,” he said.