Blood donation should not be subject to prejudice

Credit: Sibel Ergener/Art Staff Credit: Sibel Ergener/Art Staff
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“I make a difference!” states a sticker a friend of mine received at the recent American Red Cross blood drive. However, my friend didn’t wear the sticker; instead it’s now stuck inside the back cover of his textbook. It’s a bit ironic that my friend has this sticker cheerfully announcing the nobility of his acts, considering the fact that his blood was rejected. The sticker didn’t exactly serve its purpose; however, the form he received titled “Indefinite Deferral” certainly did. The form made it very clear that my friend cannot give blood because he is gay.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Indefinite Deferral Policy has permanently barred any man who has had sex with another man (even once) since 1977 from donating blood. Even more shocking is the fact that this ban has been in place for over 20 years — it was put in place in 1983, the first year of the AIDS crisis.

The American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, and America’s Blood Centers, which collect almost all the blood used for transfusions nationwide, have all stepped up to argue for an end to the policy. However, in 2007 the FDA chose to uphold the ban. According to the FDA, the ban is in place because “a history of male-to-male sex is associated with an increased risk for the presence of and transmission of certain infectious diseases, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”

For my friend, and for many other students on campus and around the country, this policy is an act of outright discrimination. In 1977, when the ban was created, it may have been warranted. However, to continue that ban today is a ridiculous act of stereotyping — especially considering the FDA’s policies for other groups. Most high-risk groups are deferred for one year — a time frame that is minuscule in comparison to the indefinite deferral gay men receive. Even heterosexual individuals who have had sex with an HIV-positive partner are allowed to donate blood after a one-year deferral period.

This is an especially relevant question when the current HIV/AIDS testing procedures are considered. The HIV tests currently in use are incredibly accurate — the chances of a false negative are less than one per 2 million in the United States, according to the FDA’s statistics.

Carnegie Mellon plans to host 11 blood drives this year. For many students, these blood drives will represent bigotry and prejudice. With blood shortages across the globe — especially in devastated areas of Haiti — it’s ridiculous that the blood banks would turn down perfectly healthy, acceptable blood. All healthy students should have the opportunity to give blood, regardless of their sexual orientation. All students should have the opportunity to “make a difference.”