Tainted blood: Stigmatizing gay men

The blood banks are the only ones who are deprived of 219,000 pints of blood each year because gays can’t donate, so why should this controversy be so heated?

The fact is that those fighting to oppose the blood ban are a defense against bias and stigma. The ban set to prohibit an entire group of people within a sexual orientation is not based on scientific evidence but generalization and fear.

This restriction made in 1983 was based on the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1977, when it was at its peak. Everyone was worried about contraction and myths along with faulty information being issued about how it was spread.

Because of this, the FDA has allowed the ban to preserve this fear for 28 years, hampering the rights of free citizens to fulfill philanthropic gestures. They are placing men who have sex with men (MSM) in the same category as those who “have ever used needles to take drugs” and “have ever taken money, drugs or other payment for sex,” according to the American Red Cross eligibility criteria.

Banning this largely available quantity of blood donations makes about as much sense as it would to ban African-American men or high school students in general, as they are groups at high risk of HIV and deserve no more of a stigma than MSM.

The mere idea of quarantining homosexuals from the blood supply like they’re lepers projects a falsity regarding the transmission of HIV and a poor image on a group of people who have a hard enough time gaining equality in this country. Working against this ban represents something a little more than blood.

In a New York Times article, Dr. Steven Kleinman, senior medical adviser to the American Association of Blood Banks, expressed that some of this epidemic comes from the fact that homosexuality is a “socially charged issue.”

You’re darn tootin’ right, it is.

The blood donation ban adds insult to injury, turning away perfectly apt donors and giving more reasons as to why gays should be an anomaly. That is an issue. Depriving blood from those in need of surgeries is an issue. Creating a humiliating, even harmful label upon MSM, which encompasses the gay community, is an issue.

Never should someone at a blood drive in his workplace, his church or his school be forced to explain to his colleagues and friends that he is not allowed to donate blood because the government thinks his blood is tainted.

Raising this ban would be an important step in the right direction for a whole slew of responsible blood donors to give up one pint of blood and gain a whole new pride.  

E-mail: ftirado@indiana.edu


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