A gay dad in Philadelphia, who residents might recognize as their local weatherman, spoke out this week about the Food & Drug Administration’s blood donation policy that many see as discriminatory to the LGBTQ+ community.
ABC6 meteorologist Adam Joseph spoke to health reporter and registered nurse Ali Gorman about the FDA’s policy, which was set amid the AIDS epidemic in 1983, and still impacts him and millions of other gay men today.
“I want to help everyone as much as I can,” he said. “But someone is telling me I can't, because I am living the life I was born to live.”
The FDA’s policy initially restricted gay or bisexual men from donating blood unless they are abstinent for 12 months, but that timeline was reduced to three months due to the pandemic. That rule even applies to men like Joseph and his husband, who have been in monogamous relationships for more than a decade and have built a family together.
Joseph, who is now a father of two, said he and many other gay men are being lumped into the discriminatory stereotype that all gay men have HIV.
"We look at our life with our two kids, yes we're two dads but we're living a life like any other straight couple," he said. "You know, we don't go outside our marriage, we live happily together.”
According to Doctor Katharine Bar, an infectious disease expert at Penn Medicine, science has come a long way since the FDA’s policy was first enacted, and there is now incredibly sensitive screening of both the donor and the blood itself.
“It's really judging people as a large group that you identify with as opposed to your individual risks," she told ABC6. "I think we can continue to push to reassess this policy and hopefully have it be more science-based as opposed to historically-based."
The Red Cross has also told the FDA it remains committed to building an inclusive environment that embraces diversity for all those who engage with its life saving mission.
“The American Red Cross does not believe blood donation eligibility should be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation," the organization said in a statement.
Joseph said despite the barriers for gay men, all people should consider donating blood if they can.
"It can save so many lives,” he said. “Do it for me, until I can walk in those doors and do it for all of you.”