Guest Opinion: Peter Brooks
Low blood supplies could be boosted by a change in the law
I have just read yet another article about the crisis involving critically low blood supplies in Tucson. Darn, that is just too bad. I wish I could help. I really do. But because the Red Cross discriminates against gay men, and I happen to be a gay man, I am not able to donate.
This policy, about which most people are ignorant, dates back to 1990, when the Food and Drug Administration began banning blood donations from any man who has had sex with another man since 1977. The policy started as a guideline in 1983, before blood could be tested for HIV. They can actually ask men if they have had sex (“even once”) with another man since 1977. Where else can you legally do that?
I’m sure the majority of men who are gay, bisexual or just “experimented” that one time in college simply lie to them. But I made a decision when I came out 12 years ago not to do that. Not to the Red Cross or anyone else.
Despite advances in testing, this ban has remained in place, officials say, because of concern over HIV infection among men who have had sex with men. Never mind the fact that African-American women are now the group with the fastest growing rate of infection in the United States, with Latinas a close second. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these two groups made up 85 percent of new AIDS infections in 2003.
But no one pries into their sex lives when they go to donate blood, and none of them have lifetime bans on being able to donate. Seriously. We have lifetime bans.
At an FDA hearing in 2000, the last time the agency reviewed its policy, the Red Cross testified in favor of keeping what the industry calls a “lifetime deferral” for gay men. The FDA’s panel of specialists voted 7-6 to maintain the ban.
The gay community has come such a long way in this country, from gaining employment protection along with other minorities, to securing the rights to adopt children and even marry in some states. But we who are men still cannot do a simple, lifesaving act, that of giving blood.
There is something very wrong here. It sickens me that a national organization, one that so many people blindly support during times of crisis, is allowed to discriminate like this and most people don’t even know it.
So, I’m sorry, Tucson. Until federal agencies wake up to reality and snap forward to 2006 and stop this discrimination, there is nothing I nor many of my friends can do for you.
That pisses me off, it isn’t right. You can’t give blood because your gay? That is just straight up discrimination, which is illegal, I hate the FDA…