The way our nation regulates blood donation is discriminatory. But six freshman in the SPA leadership program aim to right that wrong.
The Red is in the Rainbow Campaign is collecting signatures of those in favor of allowing all adults donate blood, regardless of the history on their sexual activity. The Eagle commends the effort. And its about time it received some attention.
In 1983, the Food and Drug Administration began enforcing restrictions on donated blood. Men who had had sex with other men after 1977 were “deferred” and not allowed to contribute to blood banks. Female partners of men who have had sex with other men were in a later ban deferred for a year after last physical contact.
Homosexuality was seen as dirty and unholy, and irrational fear coupled with surprising data led to one of the more discriminatory policies in FDA history.
The Eagle would like to be able to report that our laws have changed to reflect the more accepting attitudes of many Americans. Unfortunately, the FDA’s discriminatory restrictions are still in effect.
Why? According to the organization, men who have a history of sex with other men are 200 times more likely than the average first time blood donor to have HIV.
This data is in dispute by the American Association of Blood, the Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers, all of which support the policy’s elimination. One AABB model found that allowing men who have had sex with men to donate blood would result in one additional HIV transfusion every 32.8 years. The risk to blood recipients is not as frightful as the FDA would have us believe.
We find the policy to be wrong in principle. African-Americans are also at greater risk of HIV — in fact they make up 49 percent of new diagnoses and comprise only 12 percent of the population. However, the FDA would never suggest deferring African-Americans from giving blood, as that, like the current policy, would be discriminatory.
Demand for blood is high, and to refuse a large, willing demographic the opportunity to give may risk the lives of many patients in need of a transfusion. The few risks that come with eliminating the policy are outweighed by the benefits to patients in need of blood.
We applaud the efforts of SPA freshmen in the Red is in the Rainbow leadership program. The Eagle supports the petition and urges like-minded students to participate in the organization. The FDA’s restrictions are archaic and discriminatory, caught in the backwards thinking of the ‘80s. We believe this petition has the nascent support in the AU community to become a significant movement, and we invite the campaign to join with other organizations on campus with similar interests to widen its support and appeal.
The Eagle fully supports the Red is in the Rainbow movement. It truly has the capacity to bring real change on an issue important to the AU community. ≠ E