by Franki Butler
The other night, several of my friends and I were talking about the most recent campus blood drive – specifically, some of the more interesting rules about who can and cannot give blood. Allow me to share with you my personal favorites from the Can Not list :
• You are a man and have had sex with another man, even once
• You have engaged in sex for drugs or money since 1977
• You are, or have been in sexual contact with someone in the above list
It was several years ago when I first heard these rules, and I was fairly confused. The anti-prostitute rule I could almost understand, though given that volunteer blood is tested for disease, I would think that the rule would have a shorter time frame than “since 1977.” Someone who was a hooker 20-30 years ago but is currently clean shouldn’t constantly be coming up against the wall of his/her past. It’s discrimination based on conception, rather than fact.
The other practice that continues to baffle and outrage me is that of banning gay men – and not just gay men, but all males who have had homosexual intercourse and all women who have had sex with men who’ve had homosexual intercourse – from giving blood. And this isn’t simply some archaic law someone forgot to take off the books; the Federal Drug Administration re-stated the policy in 2007. The stated reason for this is that such donors are at a higher risk for HIV, but aside from the fact that “have you tested HIV positive?” is on the blood donor questionnaire, donor blood is tested for HIV. So basically the policy boils down to “Everyone knows The Gays carry HIV, so even though we test donor blood for that specific virus, we’re still going to dismiss all possible gay male donors, and anyone who might have caught their gay cooties, just in case.” Real classy, FDA, real classy.
High-risk behavior by some men should not exclude all gay, bisexual, sexually-open heterosexual men, or women who have been with any of the above from giving blood. It doesn’t make sense. The incidence of HIV transmission from male-to-male intercourse is high, yes, but there are other factors at work. Banning people who have had unprotected sex with a partner whose health status was unknown would make far more sense. Slightly clunkier wording, perhaps, but when trying to end discrimination and allow more people to participate in a practice that could save lives, I think the extra linguistic effort is worth it.