In the U.S., gay men have been banned from donating blood for 31 years due to potential HIV risks, and UA student leaders have stated they think the ban is discriminatory.
Dissent against the ban stems from how individuals other than gay men may also be at risk for HIV, and the belief that with modern scientific advancements, the disease can be detected quickly and accurately.
According to the Red Cross website, the Red Cross supports the use of rational, scientifically-based findings that are applied fairly among donors who engage in similar risk activities, such as “men who have had sex with other men.”
The Red Cross follows the Food and Drug Administration regulations and the Department of Health and Human Services regulations to keep blood clean and the population safe from disease.
Although HIV can be detected in straight people as well, those individuals are still able to get blood drawn without being denied upfront.
The HHS Advisory Committee has also suggested that gay men who have been abstinent for a year should be eligible to donate blood.
Greg Daniels, the co-director of the ASUA Pride Alliance, said that even though this policy is coming from a good place, it is kind of ridiculous; technology for detecting these infections has come far, and being abstinent for one year is unnecessary if the blood comes back clean.
This policy is discriminatory for gay men, Daniels said, and there should be promotion for everyone to get tested so that this policy is related to the entire population instead of just giving one group the responsibility.
“HIV infections run the whole gambit of sexualities,” Daniels said, “so I think that should be our main focus to get everybody tested.”
Daniels added that even if someone is unsure of what their HIV status is, they should still be able to have blood drawn, have it run through a screening system for eligibility and be notified if it cannot be used.
“I would love to donate blood, but I can’t,” he said. “I am in a deferral database, and that’s just because I answered yes to one question.”
Daniels said he is not high risk and has not had sex in over a year, so having to be abstinent for a year is a little extreme and unnecessary in determining risk.
Chris Sogge, the graduate assistant for the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, agreed with Daniels and said that since other sexual orientations do not have to be abstinent for a year to donate blood, gay men should not have to wait either, because it is not fair to single them out.
Sogge said he believes that this policy comes from an old idea that all gay men are “dirty” and has lasted way too long. This new suggestion is a start to giving them the chance to donate.
“I think the ban should be removed, because our medical technology has continued to increase at a standing rate,” Sogge said. “I think that it is even worse now to continue to deny people who simply want to help out.”
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