Article by Brinda Ryali
Just a week ago I received a call from American Red Cross requesting me to donate blood due to a shortage of blood donations. The lack of blood donations drove me to question the ban on homosexual men from donating blood. Is this ban a necessary precaution or the remnants of a backward scientific theory?
The FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, passed a law under federal guidelines that requires blood banks to add a screening question asking male donors if they’ve had sex with another man since 1977, the year the AIDS epidemic began. If potential male donors have had sex with another man even once since 1977, they are automatically denied the right to donate their blood.
Arguing Against Homosexuals Donating Blood
Many, including those who receive blood transfusions for hemophilia are opposed to lifting the ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood. Statistics prove that men who have sex with men have a higher risk of getting HIV with a HIV prevalence rate sixty times greater than that of the general population.
While scientific advancements since 1983 when the ban was instated, allow labs to test blood for HIV infections, those opposed to lifting the ban argue that tests only detect HIV infected blood only if it has been exposed for more than 10 days. This drawback can result in newly infected HIV blood entering the blood supply.
Arguing In Favor of Homosexuals Donating Blood
On the other hand many people and associations, including the American Red Cross, American Association of Blood Banks, and America's Blood Centers believe the ban should be lifted. Since 1983 when the ban was enforced, the theory of HIV being disease homosexual men has been disbanded. HIV is now prevalent in the heterosexual population and proponents for lifting the ban argue that if heterosexual individuals are allowed to donate blood regardless of whether they have had unprotected sex, homosexual men should have the same right. They claim it unfair that a monogamous homosexual man who practices protected sex can’t donate blood while a heterosexual individual who has unprotected sex with many partners is legible to donate blood.
Even if one disregards the civil rights of this issue, it is scientifically easier to detect HIV infected blood. Since 1983 when detected HIV was fairly difficult, scientific advancements allow blood banks to run eleven thorough tests, one of which will detect HIV infected blood. Proponents of the ban argue that there is no reason to defer men who have had sex with other men from donating blood if tests are available to confirm the blood is uninfected.
They continue to make their case by pointing out that this is about more than giving everyone there rights, its about helping more people. It is clearly evident that blood banks are facing a shortage of blood and denying an entire community of people from donating blood is adding to the shortage. According to a study done in UCLA, if the ban was completely lifted, 219,200 more pints of blood would be donated each year.
Having been introduced to both sides of the argument, you can take a stance on controversial issue.