Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Priorities, people!

If I need help, I do not stop and wonder if the person who is helping me believes in God. I do not concern myself with their personal life at all, really. They are helping me. I say 'Thank you'. So when I read about this, I was rather incredulous. A food bank was unable to make all of its deliveries because they were short on volunteers, but they were turning away volunteers who didn't belong to a church. The guy running the food bank even admits that 'it sounds really, really stupid', but apparently the food bank was set up with increasing church involvement as a primary goal. I thought feeding hungry people was the point of a food bank. Would the people getting the food have cared whether or not the deliveries came from church-goers?

This may be a relatively small issue, but it hints at something bigger. Any situation where politics or prejudice interferes with getting help to people who need it is an unnecessary and terrible thing. When the earthquake hit Haiti, there were huge delays getting aid to the people that needed it because of bureaucracy. I can't go anywhere at the hospital where I do my research without seeing signs asking you to donate blood, but the FDA bans a significant portion of the population (homosexual men) from donating at all.

That is something that has really bothered me for years, too. Hospitals always need blood. Always. I have never seen a blood drive that wasn't advertising a 'critical shortage'. They need this blood to save people's lives, in the most literal sense. But only if it's not gay.

Now I know, the ban was put in place back in 1983 because the male homosexual population at the time had significantly higher rates of HIV infection. We had no effective screening process to ensure donated blood was safe, and it was honestly better in terms of disease control to eliminate the possibility of receiving blood from such a high risk population. Seriously though, that was almost thirty years ago. All donated blood is screened for HIV now, and other high risk populations are only required to wait a year after their last 'high risk behavior' before they get the go ahead to donate. Don't even get me started on why butt sex even qualifies as a 'high risk' behavior. Ugh.

So why is the ban still in place? Apparently it's a polarizing issue, with the blood banks themselves split on whether to maintain the lifetime ban or remove it entirely. But we're talking about peoples' lives here, why is it even up for debate? More blood donations can only be a good thing. Sometimes I just want to smack some perspective into people.


  1. I can't give blood either, but that's because of mad cow disease... which I obviously have.