Monday, July 9, 2012

Reconsidering the Ban on Gay Blood Donations

The fact that gay men are currently banned from donating blood in the US is a huge problem that I have written about once or twice before. It's discriminatory, medically unnecessary and puts people's lives at risk by eliminating potential donors at a time when the need for blood donations is beyond critical. In my opinion, the only thing keeping it in place is cowardice and bigotry disguised as bureaucracy.

So when I read that finally...finally!...something was being done, I was elated. Thank all that is awesome, someone is taking this seriously! The culture has changed enough that bigotry is seen as shameful rather than an accepted norm!

Of course, the actual details were a bit disappointing. Yes, it is awesome that congressmen Quigley and Kerry have organized a sizable chunk of politicians and sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services asking them to reconsider the ban. This is a great step. But what they are actually asking is for DHH&S to implement a study to look at the potential harm of homosexual men donating blood to offer an educated opinion about the necessity of the lifetime ban. Yeesh.

I can tell you right now: it's stupid, get rid of it. I realize that studies are sometimes necessary to prove things that are obvious, and given the rationale for implementing the ban in the first place I can understand why people want to be cautious...but we should be past this by now. Safe, fast and effective HIV testing has been available since 1985! These hoops should be long since jumped through, and the delay is irritating. It feels like more bureaucracy.

The actual goal of the initiative is not to remove the ban all together, either. Instead it would replace the lifetime ban associated with gay sex with a shorter ban that is more typical for 'risky behavior': six months to a year.

Maybe if I keep saying this loudly enough it will sink in: Buttsex is not a 'risky behavior'! Classifying any given sexual act as innately unhealthy or unsafe is ignorant and discriminatory! Unsafe sex, be it gay or straight or what-have-you, is risky behavior! Ugh!

I'm still really happy about this, don't get me wrong. This is a great first just should have happened about twenty years ago. Removing the lifetime ban will expand the pool of donors considerably, but the fact that male homosexual sex is still seen as innately 'risky' behavior means that only gay dudes that haven't gotten laid in a year or so will be able to donate. Frankly, being able to donate blood is poor consolation to someone going through a dry spell.

For your edification, an incomplete list of behaviors that will earn you a lifetime ban from blood donation. One of these things is not like the others.
  • You are a male who has had sex with another male since 1977, even once 
  • You have ever used a needle, even once, to take any illegal drugs or steroids
  • You have been given money or drugs for sex since 1977
  • You have traveled to or lived in certain countries during defined periods of outbreaks or high risk
  • You have been diagnosed with or exposed to certain blood-borne diseases 

No comments:

Post a Comment