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Gay Teens Tissue Donation Denied

DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI-TV)—It's been just over a year since bullied 16-year-old AJ Betts took his own life at his home in Pleasant Hill.

 Months before his death, he decided to become an organ donor. But his mother has learned his wish was not fully granted because he was gay.
 
Sheryl Moore received a letter telling her what became of her son’s kidneys, liver, heart and lungs.
 
“I was very happy to hear that a 14-year-old boy got his heart. He would have really liked that,” Moore said.
 
She couldn’t help but feel the letter was incomplete since part of his donation was denied.
 
“My initial feeling was just very angry because I couldn't understand why my 16-year-old son's eyes couldn't be donated just because he was gay,” Moore said.
 
His eyes were rejected because of a Food and Drug Administration regulation. The regulation came about decades ago at the height of the AIDS epidemic. It makes would-be donors ineligible to donate certain tissue if they’re believed to have a “risk factor” for communicable diseases.
 
Because Moore could not confirm whether her son had been sexually active or not, the donor network had to assume he had been sexually active in the last five years, thereby ineligible to donate tissue or his eyes.
 
The exclusion is not limited to certain tissue donations. Gay men are also banned for life from donating blood. It's a regulation that many say needs to be updated.
 
“This is archaic, and it is just silly that people wouldn't get the life-saving assistance they need because of regulations that are 30 years old,” Moore said.
 
Recently, national medical organizations have publicly stated their opposition to the current FDA law, and Moore hopes AJ’s story will help more people see why.
 
The FDA does allow donations from heterosexuals who have slept with an HIV-positive person or commercial sex worker after one year, but many experts say that's a contradiction.
 
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