Letter to the Editor
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 08:11
Last Wednesday, I came out as a sexually active gay man to the Red Cross at the blood drive. Instead of being treated with acceptance and understanding, I was informed that the reward for my honesty and full disclosure is a long-standing, FDA-mandated “lifetime deferral” from donating blood in the United States. According to our government, I’m tainted, and so is the entire sexually active gay male population of the United States.
FDA regulations permanently ban sexually active gay men from giving blood. As the reasoning goes, gay men are more likely to have HIV; therefore, they should all be banned from donating. This policy is discriminatory, homophobic and out of date — a tragic holdover from the days when HIV/AIDS was known as the “gay cancer” or “gay plague.” Being gay does not mean that someone has HIV. Likewise, being straight doesn’t exclude someone from getting HIV.
The FDA needs to stop treating gay men as contaminated, second-class citizens and tolerating this archaic blanket ban. Instead, it’s time to turn towards more rational, scientifically based eligibility criteria that doesn’t rely on misguided fears and misunderstanding of high-risk activities for blood donors. Unprotected sex and intravenous drug use are real high-risk activities. Being gay? Not so much.
No matter how strongly the Red Cross’s volunteers, posters and ads urge people to give blood, sexually active gay men won’t be allowed to “be a hero,” or “give life,” until the FDA reviews its policies.
In the meantime, as a gay man, my obligation is to get as many eligible donors to give blood as I can. As a donor, you’re not just giving blood for yourself or for the blood banks and people who need transfusions. You are also giving blood for those of us who can’t.
Barton Liang, Class of 2016