DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa mom is speaking out against the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on donations of some tissue from gay men after her son died and some of his organs were rejected.
Sheryl Moore of Pleasant Hill was told that some of her son’s tissues wouldn’t be donated because his sexual history was unclear, The Des Moines Register reported.
Moore said the Iowa Donor Network accepted his heart, lungs and kidneys. But they wouldn’t take other tissues, including bone, tendons and eyes.
“I was floored,” Moore said. “It didn’t make any sense to me at all. This is an archaic regulation, and it’s completely discriminatory. I never planned on becoming a gay rights activist, but I guess I am now.”
FDA spokeswoman Jennifer Rodriguez said the agency restricts certain donations, including tissue and blood, from men who have had sexual contact with other men within the past five years.
“FDA’s regulation of tissues establishes layers of safeguards that are meant to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, through donated tissue,” she said.
Moore’s son, A.J. Betts, committed suicide last July. She said she wasn’t sure of his sexual history.
“I mean, he was 16,” Moore said. “I never even saw him hold hands. I never heard him say he had a boyfriend. But I couldn’t rule it out completely.”
The FDA regulation was instated in the early 1980s as a result of HIV-infected blood transfusions. The worst case involved a family of hemophiliacs from Monticello in which eight relatives contracted the disease and died of AIDS within a 10-year period.
The FDA hoped to prevent further outbreaks through a ban on donations from sexually active gay men, the group most at risk for HIV and AIDS.
Although there hasn’t been an HIV transmission through a blood transfusion since 1987, the agency says the regulations are still in place because mistakes can be made.
The American Association of Blood Banks, America’s Blood Centers, the American Red Cross and the American Medical Association have urged the FDA to consider changing or lifting its ban on blood donations.