Wednesday, February 25, 2009

more on gay blood donors

A few months back, I posted about the existence of gay blood donors, at least in the General Social Survey.
Now, I have more information from a more authoritative source, with fewer obvious data problems.

The National Health And Nutrition Survey (NHANES) has been periodically conducted, recently on a two year basis.
By combining several surveys together (1988-1994, 1999-2000, 2001-2002, 2003-2004 & 2005-2006), I was able to look at a reasonable number of sexual minority males' blood donation histories in comparison to heterosexual males.

Like GSS, you can break down sexual orientation in different ways in these datasets, each way yields slightly different sample sizes.

sexual orientation identity
Among 75 men who say they are gay, 2 (3%) said that they donated blood in the previous year, and 2 of 56 men who said they were bisexual did (4%), while 214 of 3,873 heterosexually-identifying men gave blood in the previous year (6%).

men who have had sex with men
Among 65 men who have only had sex with men, 2 (3%) said they donated blood in the previous year. 5 of 264 men who had sex with men and women (2%) said they gave blood. 667 of 9,560 men (7%) who have never had sex with a man gave blood.

men who have had sex with a man in the last year
It's one thing for a man who had sex with another man a long time ago to give blood, it's another thing to consider recent sexual activity. Of 117 men who say they had had sex with a man in the last year, 2 said they gave blood (2%), while 209 of 3,626 men who said they had not had sex with a man in the last year did (6%).

Banning gay men isn't working
These figures suggest that the US ban on blood donations from any man who has had sex with a man since 1978 is not working, and should therefore be re-worked in order to create a more sensible donation policy. One that doesn't feel discriminatory. One that doesn't encourage lying. One that isn't so ridiculous that it brings other more reasonable exclusions into doubt. One that doesn't conflate homosexuality with risk.

The numbers from these surveys are more credible than the ones I got from the GSS, which showed an implausibly high rate of blood donations regardless of sexual orientation.
NHANES is based on an in-person survey (the NHANES people literally drive up to your house with an 18-wheeler containing a mobile medical examination center), rather than the random digit dialing of the GSS.

My interest in pulling these data together is merely to document the existence of gay/bi blood donors, and that it is not an especially rare phenomenon, not to say exactly how many gay/bi men donate blood (or straight men for that matter). For that, we'd need even larger samples...

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