Men Who Have Sex with Men
Men who have had sex with other men within the past 5 years are currently not eligible to join the Be The Match Registry® as a potential marrow donor. This is because men who have sex with other men are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV.
The long-standing exclusion of at-risk groups for HIV from the registry aligns with the policy of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which was set to minimize the risk of HIV transmission through blood and tissue donation.
More information regarding the FDA’s tissue donation policy pertinent to men who have sex with men is available on the FDA website (see section IV.E).
We periodically revisit this issue in consultation with our independent Donor and Patient Safety Committee, weighing the risk and benefit to patients in need of a transplant as new information becomes available. The FDA also periodically revisits this issue, and we continue to take into account their guidance in evaluating our own policy.
~National Marrow Donor Program
But, then again, there's a bunch of odd rules like being banned from donating if you lived in the UK for three consecutive months, or in greater Europe for five years, or if you have dementia because somehow that affects how sturdy your marrow might be, I guess.
The reason I bring this is up is because a few weeks back I had finally decided to look into becoming a bone marrow donor. I was healthy, I had good insurance, and I wasn't getting any younger for it as much as I would like to think otherwise. (I turn 29 this weekend, godhelpme.)
I had heard the procedure was a more than a bit painful and the recovery somewhat tedious, though medical advances had been made for the procedure to be less invasive. Or, at least as less invasive as harvesting the tender humors from the inside your femur with a drill can be.
"What do you mean, I'm not an ideal candidate?" I asked poor Tiffany, the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) girl I was now raising my voice at over the phone.
And then I found out I was not what the NMDP or FDA consider to be an "ideal candidate."
"I'm sorry, but it's an FDA guideline," her tone was audibly repentant. She had, I could guess, had to deliver this rather discriminatory news to other upset and disappointed gay men than just me.
"I knew we couldn't donate blood, but marrow, too?" I asked more than a bit bewildered.
"Marrow is what makes the blood cells. You also cannot donate organs," she replied.
My mind went momentarily numb, the way it does when you just watch your computer crash and burn mid-project and you know you just lost whatever work you had toiled into it. Total shock before the realization fully sets in.
"What!?" Seriously, what year was this?
The law had been put into effect in 1985 when HIV and AIDS was still seen as a strictly homosexual disease. The ban was to prevent infected blood from accidentally making its way to recipients who needed it. It was understandable at the time.
That time being 30 years ago.
Over time the United Kingdom lifted its ban and the American Red Cross advocated the lifting of the bans in the United States and Canada where bans are currently active. In 2010, the FDA after review, recommended keeping the ban in place preventing many healthy gay donors from registering and putting lives of donor recipients at risk.
"Does it matter that I've been monogamous and having sex with only one person for the past few years? I literally have scores of blood test paperwork that says I'm perfectly healthy and STD free," I asked knowing what the answer was.
"I'm sorry, but no," responded Tiffany, despondency in her voice.
"Can I still be a private donor?"
"Yes, you'll have to get a test done and it'll be out of pocket since it'll be a private test and not through a non-profit donor registry." Since non-profits receive government funding they must follow FDA guidelines. "It'll cost you about $200, and the recipient's health insurance may cover the cost if you're a match but it's unlikely."
So there you have it. If you're gay and want to be a blood, marrow, or organ donor - the latter two involving painful surgery - you'll have to pay to donate.
Not discriminatory at all.
The thing is is that the rule makes no sense. The reason it was put into place was to protect people from the HIV-infected blood of TEH GAYZ. However, now we know that anyone can contract HIV, and that there are more straight people then gay people who have it, so the ban essentially bans the minority.
In addition all, blood samples are screened for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis viruses anyways so if someone who has it does donate it (should) get caught anyways.
Also, read the guidelines and you'll notice the fact that there is no rule on straight people having sex. In fact, you could have whored your way up the road and back throwing your poonanny at anyone like it was a fistful of confetti and you can still donate that day because you're straight and, therefore, totally more reliably clean.
Lesbians are also free to donate because who ever heard of a lesbian with an STD? All they do is construction work for foreplay and rent U-Hauls to achieve orgasms. At least, I assume that's what the FDA thinks. Furthermore, the ban enforces a social stigma.
The FDA has essentially legislated that gay men are inherently dirty and straight people are inherently clean. Gays are too risky a group. The majority has stereotyped into law the idea that gay men are incapable of safe sex, monogamy, and intelligent decisions. However, with our greater disposable income we're free to donate money to organ donor programs or pay up and get them done privately. The FDA and NMDP actually encourage gay people to do that on their website in lieu of marrow donation.
One or two people suggested I simply lie on my application. Ethics of life versus ethics of law. Yet, in this overly litigious state where we need Good Samaritan laws to protect would-be do-gooders I feel that deception isn't the right way to go about it.
Others have recommended protest, but who wants to be seen protesting a blood drive? No good or good press could ever come of it. It's all rather infuriating.
So, dear readers, I offer the following:
I am blood type AB+. I am in a monogamous relationship. I am 100% STD free. My marrow is brimming, virile, and strong. I am a willing and gay private donor.
If you or someone you know is in the Northern California area and needs a marrow donor please contact me. We'll see what we can do, talk to insurance companies, etc. and if it all works out and I'm a match for you then let's get to drilling. Feel free to e-mail me so we can chat.
Now I argue that part of the reason my marrow is so healthy is I live an amiable and mostly responsible lifestyle. I go to yoga every Tuesday where a tiny woman tortures me for two hours and tells me it's good for the body and soul. I walk two-miles every lunch break at work to escape the drudgery of my computer. I don't smoke at all and I hear a glass of wine a night is supposed to be good for your heart so that's nice. I eat lots of greens, plenty of produce, enough carbs to kill a racehorse, a smattering of protein if my paycheck allows; and more sweets than a doctor might practically recommend but they're all homemade so I rationalize it as okay. I eat practically zero processed foods because ew.
I also eat bone marrow whenever possible. And eating bone marrow must be good for bone marrow, right? After all, it has all those vitamins and minerals that my own marrow needs. It's not just personal justification, but also hopeful legitimacy.
If you've never had bone marrow it's as rich as a sheik, meltingly unctuous, salty meat butter. To some I assume it sounds sickening eating the inside of an animal bone, but assuming you're an omnivore then you're already eating the muscles surrounding it so how strange can it really be? Think of it as responsible eating by ensuring that the whole of the animal is used and it's death not in vein.
Bone marrow is traditionally served with points of brusque and hot rounds of toast. The marrow is generously salted to herald it's already indulgently heavy umami flavor. More often than not you'll find it served with a simple parsley salad that's perhaps been dressed with a bit of onion, capers, or champagne vinegar - all delightfully sour or bitter flavors to cut through the fatty flavors.
Roasted Marrow Bones
a few pounds of marrow bones
1 tablespoon kosher salt
a baguette from your favorite bakery parsley
a clove of garlic
1. Place the bones and salt in a large bowl and submerge them in ice water. This will leach the bones of their impurities. Let this sit for four hours or overnight even. Change the water out and cover with more room temperature tap water, allow to sit for another hour or until the bones are room temperature. Preheat oven to 450F.
2. Dry the bones and place in a roasting pan or dish. Roast for 20 minutes.
3. While the marrow bones roast cut up the parsley and set aside. In the last 5 minutes of roasting time slice up some of the baguette into 1/2-inch thick slices. Toast them in the toaster or quickly in the oven. Cut the garlic clove in half and rub each piece of toast with it.
4. Scoop out the marrow and spread it over the toast. Sprinkle with salt, parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Eat and enjoy how good your life is.