Slider 1

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blood Sourced

I'm a proud member of the Greek system as well as an intern at the Gender & Sexuality Equity Center. To me, both organizations define who I am and what I believe in and I've never had a hard time balancing the two (except for a bit of time management within the last week, since Queer Week and Greek Week coincided).

They don't often directly overlap, but they did this week when I went to give blood during the blood drive as a part of Greek Week. One of the questions on the paper says something along the lines of: if you're a man, have you had sex with another man (even once) since 1977? 

I was surprised, not only because this is incredibly discriminatory but because this summer the Red Cross experienced the biggest blood shortage in 15 years. Shortages translate to the cancellation of elective procedures but also postponing serious procedures like liver transplants because they require so much blood, according to

There are usually shortages in the summer because people are on vacation, and this summer especially with power lines down and the extreme heat blood drives had to be canceled and people stayed inside. But it has spread to fall and even in September abcnews reported shortages among the Red Cross and America's Blood Centers, which make up almost all U.S. blood banks.

Blood Source is the biggest blood bank in California and follows the laws of the FDA as well as the European Union because U.S. plasma is processed overseas. FDA laws ban any gay men who have had sex with another man while EU defers those who engage in "high risk" sexual behavior. EU has also recently stated that a gay man can donate blood if he hasn't had sex in the past 12 months. 

I can understand where the ban comes from, since during the 70s and 80s there was the first big spread of AIDS and people didn't know what it was or how it was transmitted. It was assumed that only gay males had the disease because it was wiping out their population.

What I don't get is why it's still carried over, 30-ish years later.

Students who have gotten tattoos or studied abroad in certain places are turned down for one year. Heterosexual people who have had protected sex with multiple partners are okay to give blood (but then, what student who hasn't been practicing safe sex will admit it to a stranger in a blood donation line). And here's the kicker: those who have recently had heterosexual sex with an HIV-positive partner will be deferred for one year.

So, if someone goes to donate blood and says that they recently had sex with an HIV-positive partner they will be turned down. BUT if they come back 12 months later and have not since had sex with an HIV-positive partner they can donate.

The idea behind this rule is that the testing for HIV has become so efficient they are able to test the blood quickly and accurately. The new test is a sensitive nucleic acid test which was introduced in 1999 which will detect HIV infections that occurred as recently as 12 days before the test, according to a Washington Post article. So then why can't these tests be done to blood from gay men?

Laws from EU that have requirements for blood collected say they don't want blood from anyone who partakes in "sexually risky" behavior. That's very open to interpretation. To me that means having unprotected sex even once and not getting tested, but to another person that might mean new partners weekly.

Blood banks trust people to use their best judgment, but when they're allowing sex workers over gay men to donate blood that isn't being safe, it's being discriminatory.

What would it take for a gay man to be able to donate blood, bringing a recent negative resulted HIV test?

These laws need to be defined and changed, and even one step in the right direction (though it may still be in need of work and disciminatory) is a good one.  

Written by Stephanie Geske

No comments:

Post a Comment