Until recently, I had no idea gay men can’t give blood.
A friend of mine tried to donate blood on several occasions after seeing “Please Donate” signs. When he attempted to help his fellow man, a staff member looked at him, and said: “Are you gay? You can’t donate.”
The thought had never crossed my mind. I had heard about numerous cases of terminally ill people in need of blood, and I had read articles about blood shortages, but I never once imagined that a certain demographic of people are denied the right to donate blood and help others.
In 1985, the FDA banned any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood. This ban was enacted during the AIDS crisis. According to About.com, the ban argued that gay men are at higher risk of having HIV and hepatitis so they shouldn’t be allowed to donate. In 2000, the Blood Products Advisory Committee met to discuss the issue and decided to continue the ban. Even women who in the past 12 months have had sexual contact with a man who has ever had one homosexual encounter are banned from giving blood.
Banning gay men from donating blood is illogical for several reasons. It implies that all gay men have the stereotypical promiscuous lifestyle that was perpetuated through the ’80s. It lumps certain people into a single stereotypical group and labels them all as “high-risk” regardless of lifestyle.
Many gay men are in monogamous relationships with clean partners. Others are celibate. The ban keeps men who have had even one singular gay encounter from giving blood. A man could have had one homosexual experience, such as mutual masturbating, back in the ’50s, long before the AIDS epidemic, and still be denied the right to donate blood for his entire life, even after testing negative for any disease.
Saying that because some gay men have AIDS none should be allowed to give blood is as absurd as saying that because some black men shoplift, none should be allowed in the store.
The principal flaw in the argument that gay men cannot donate blood is that blood goes through tests to make sure it is not contaminated, and it is therefore highly unlikely that a person would receive infected blood through a donation. The fact that the donator has had a gay encounter should have nothing at all to do with his ability to donate blood.
The ban also neglects the fact that straight people, especially women, are at risk of contracting HIV. A straight woman could have sex with 45 men and have numerous diseases but still donate her blood. A clean gay man can’t even attempt to.
If there is a potential gay blood donor, the person who needs the blood doesn’t get a choice to decide if she wants the blood. She is denied it from the get-go, even if it could save her life.
People are dying, and blood is needed. Outdated prejudices shouldn’t stop people who need certain types of blood from getting what they need to survive. The absurd ban needs to be lifted in order to save lives and stop the cycle of homophobic stereotyping.
Allison Pritchard is a junior electronic media production major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]