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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Donation rule shift not about fresh blood

    With only a quick glance at today’s society, it would be easy to dismiss the fact that homophobia still exists. More and more states are beginning to legally recognize same-sex marriage. More and more celebrities are coming out as gay or bisexual. More and more media sources are representing members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning community in dignified, three-dimensional ways.

    And yet, archaic practices rooted in homophobia are still permitted to remain.

    Since 1977, the Food and Drug Administration has prohibited blood donations by men who have had sex with other men. That year stands as the catch-all year of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S., and this current prohibition is certainly linked to a very real fear of HIV-contaminated blood. Men who have sex with men are considered a “high risk group” for blood-borne infections, such as HIV, and are thus banned from donating blood. Ever.

    However, a mid-November meeting of the Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability has proposed a change to this lifetime ban. Rather than prohibiting blood donations from any man or trans individual who has ever had sex with a man, the ban would prohibit men who have had sex with other men in the last 12 months.

    This marks the first time the committee has voted to alter the policy; past groups voted to keep the lifetime ban in place.

    I don’t know if the FDA is waiting for a round of applause, but they won’t get it from me.

    The FDA’s policy is inherently homophobic and not based on factual evidence. Put into effect in 1983, when the science was softer and the fear of the recent AIDS epidemic was still very pervasive, the ban is outdated and problematic. Even this “progressive” step still specifically targets men who engage in same-sex encounters as “the enemy.”

    According to the Code of Federal Regulations regarding blood donation, each blood donation must be tested for HIV and other blood-borne pathogens before it can be used. And that rule applies to every blood unit — not just those from “high-risk” groups. HIV does not discriminate against who it infects. Why should the policy? We have to check blood anyway. So, what exactly is this policy really saying?

    “The 12-month ban on men who have had a male partner lacks evidence,” said Dr. Carol Q. Galper, an associate professor and assistant dean of Family and Community Medicine whose research includes HIV prevention and education. “Homophobia comes into it. This is discriminating based on sexual orientation, not behaviors. What about the person who is straight and has multiple partners without condoms? … They could have had a partner who used injection drugs and been exposed to another ‘risk group.’”

    What the alteration to the ban reveals is a desire to appear more understanding and progressive, but it also represents a pervasive homophobia that prevents any actual progress from occurring. Same-sex partners who have been monogamous for years and may even have a legally recognized marriage would be barred from donating blood based on this new policy, simply for consummating their marriage or engaging in a healthy, consensual act.

    Men who have sex with men are still in the shadow the AIDS epidemic, and though little is said about the lives that were lost and the communities that were broken during this time, the heterosexual community’s fear of gay men and the “dangers” they represent is still terrifyingly present.

    So, no, I will not be applauding the FDA’s proposed 12-month ban or calling it progressive. It is discriminatory, homophobic and, at the end of the day, it’s not good enough.
    _______________

    Paul Thomson is a senior studying BFA acting and Africana Studies. Follow him on Twitter.

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