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Tainted blood: Still fighting, years later

POSTED AT 09:37 PM ON Jan. 24, 2011 

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As blood banks continuously run low on critical blood supplies, political junkies are starting to re-examine the archaic policy of banning men who have sex with men from giving blood.

According to the American Red Cross, men who have had sexual contact with another male since 1977, even once, are banned from giving blood. This ban also extends to anyone who has accepted some form of payment for sex since 1977, straight or gay.

But given the real numbers and the critical need for more people now than ever to give blood, it seems almost backward to continue such a policy.

For starters, the policy was drafted at a time when a new HIV problem was striking the U.S. At the time, the problem was affecting a significant percentage of the gay community.

The easiest response for regulators was to single out a whole group of people based solely on their sexual orientation when the ban came in 1983. And this is where we find the policy today, 28 years later.

Given the historical context of the policy, it comes as no surprise that government bureaucrats have decided to maintain the status quo. In an article published by the Associated Press in 2010, the Food and Drug Administration reaffirmed in a 9-6 vote to keep the ban for gay men in place. This occurred even after the Red Cross said the policy was “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”  

The condemnation on ending the policy does not stop with the largest blood bank.

Earlier last year a group of 18 senators signed a letter to the FDA on ending the policy. According to a report from CBS about the letter, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said “not a single piece of scientific evidence supports the ban.”

Not only is the evidence mounted against the naysayers, but the morality of the issue is as well. To single out a group of people for who they are and for something that was happening 28 years ago does not make any logical sense. The continuance of such an elapsed policy is directly discriminating against a group of people because of some failed notion.  

So, in essence, I think it is time to roll with the changes, get rid of this policy and let our gay brothers give blood.  


E-mail: cjcaudil@indiana.edu

 

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