Why are gays still being targeted for having HIV/AIDS?

Chris Clevenger

It started out with an e-mail I received early last week. LifeShare, the local community blood services group, e-mailed me to inform me about a shortage of blood.

“This is an emergency! As of this e-mail, there is not a single unit of A Negative blood type on the shelves at your community’s blood center: LifeShare. Please come into your neighborhood donor facility or a LifeShare blood drive immediately. Remember, in emergencies, it is your blood already on the shelf that saves the life.”

My response to this was a simple e-mail.

“I would love to donate. But I’m gay. If there is an emergency, is it worth allowing me to donate?”

It was only recently that I decided to stop donating blood. Yes, I am gay, but I still meet the qualifications to donate. According to Deborah Fildes, a donor counselor with LifeShare, I can donate as long as I have “never had sex with another male.” As someone who has “never had sex with another male,” I am allowed.

What makes me mad, though, more even than the policy itself, or even a misconception that seems to make any gay person appear HIV positive, or makes HIV out to be a homosexual disease, is that they contacted me not because they wanted to answer my question, or to even discuss the policy, but to address whether or my donation was potentially contaminated.

After speaking with Fildes for about five minutes, she informed me that, in never having had sexual intercourse, my orientation alone has no effect on my status as a donor. She then urged me to donate.

I feel this entire policy is based off assumptions. The assumption that being gay puts you at a higher risk for HIV/AIDS is ludicrous. Looking at the history of HIV/AIDS, the first human infected was a heterosexual male.

Furthermore, according to a chart on the Centers for Disease Control’s Web site, as of 2002, HIV/AIDS has been transmitted more in heterosexual intercourse and needle sharing than in homosexual intercourse in the United States.

So why then is there a policy potentially stopping gays from donating? If we are producing fewer cases of HIV/AIDS than the heterosexual community, why are we being denied the ability to “save lives” simply because of our sexual activity? To me this is discrimination.

I guess it’s nice to know that, for now at least, I could potentially donate blood. But with the discrimination I face in years to come, why should I?

Chris Clevenger is a freshman electronic media management major, news correspondent and guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]