March 5, 2010 by 8junebugs
This week, 16 senators sent a letter to the FDA requesting that the ban on gay men giving blood be lifted.
If you’re not a regular reader of the Red Cross’s rules and restrictions, you may not know that male + gay = ineligible. For life. You can’t give blood.
If you’re hetero and you’ve had sex with someone who’s tested positive for HIV, you’re banned for a year…long enough to believe negative tests. Longer, really, but hey — safety first.
If you’re a gay man, you can’t give blood at all. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a long-term monogamous relationship or if you use industrial-strength condoms…or if you don’t have HIV/AIDS. You’re deferred. Permanently. You can get bounced before you even get tested.
It’s always bewildered me that the tests that determine whether I, as a man-loving female, have HIV/AIDS can’t be trusted to determine whether a man-loving male has it. I mean, I know the history — I grew up watching the Western world try to figure AIDS out. But it’s been 29 years since everyone thought HIV/AIDS was The Gay Disease.
More important, it’s been 25 years since we started screening the blood supply for HIV, undermining the need to ask about someone’s sexuality in the first place. The test can and should be the screening procedure. Blood doesn’t care how you got HIV/AIDS. It’s either there or it ain’t. In the blood supply, what matters is type and test results, not the sex of a donor’s sexual partner(s).
(And if you’re bleeding in the ER and you’re afraid that getting gay blood might make you gay…would you like to know the race of the donor in advance as well? Because that’s not contagious, either.)
(Okay, that might have been an episode of Oz…)
The 16 senators got this one right — the rules and regulations are lopsided, discriminatory, and scientifically unsound, as well as counterproductive when we are in constant, desperate need of blood donors. There is no scientific reason to assume that a heterosexual at risk of HIV/AIDS is less at risk than a homosexual. HIV is HIV, and who gave it to you is your problem, not the Red Cross’s or the FDA’s…or the 38,000 people who need blood every single day.
So bravo, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate! Way to pay attention and stand against a policy that discriminates against our neighbors and depletes a critical resource! I hope the FDA listens.
Note: Although the senators didn’t cite it, it’s true that the incidence of HIV/AIDS positives from heterosexual contact continues to rise. Gay men still make up 53% of the total diagnosed population, but heterosexual contact is the primary cause of HIV/AIDS in women, particularly women of color. When you throw race, education level, and socioeconomic status into the mix (and they’re all intertwined, especially in DC, where HIV/AIDS has reached epidemic level), the chances of a positive test skyrockets.