The Cincinnati Eye Bank
EBAA has long advocated for reducing or eliminating FDA’s 5-year exclusionary period for cornea donation for MSM.
Navigating a system that was designed for the sole purpose of excluding a group is an impossible mission. When blood donation bans started in the 80’s, the reasoning at the time was to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS into an unknowing population. However, as the decades went on and a standardization in testing and the donation process was established, this ban became more of a symbolic discriminatory one. MSM, men who have sex with men, have represented one of the largest sources of potential new donors, yet due to the decades of stigmatization they have become one of the most abused ones. A system that is experiencing constant yearly constraints and shortages should be doing everything in its power to attract all.
So how do the effects of decades of neglect in blood donation translate to organ and tissue donation? The results are strikingly like what we have already seen. Potentially viable candidates for cornea, tissue, and organ donation are being turned away for discriminatory policies. These policies have resulted in many going to social media to tell their story, and as a result ending their donation status. The best option currently available is human sourced grafts, and as more people are coming to understand their sexuality, the already small number of donors is going to continue to shrink.
The continuation of a 5-year exclusionary period is simply a slap in the face to those of us who have lobbied, advocated, and fought to end the ban, just to be told we must ignore a basic human process in hopes that we are able to donate afterwards. It is simply not a way to go. As a member of this community working in recovery, having to say ‘no’ due to an archaic rule based on hate is a source of personal pain. Change is slow when it comes to policy, however the real world does not wait – and as a result potential donors are going to become harder to find.
I can speak for myself that being a member of this community has always been one of constant change. We have had to be resilient because if we are not, then we lose our rights to be who we are. The peoples of the world are becoming more accepting, and hate is trying to find new ways to subdue its targets. I do not want to see a system that aims to change people’s lives follow down the road of hate because of archaic and discriminatory policies.