There is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy, saying that people will be “deferred for 12 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 12 months.” This ban is not inclusive of people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus community also known as (LGBTQ+). They are restricting a huge population of the United States of America from contributing to a healthy and reliable blood supply.
It is unfair that although we have made progress in accepting LGBTQ+ people we are doing the complete opposite when it comes to their participation in donating blood, this is a discrimination. The height of the AIDS epidemic occurred in the 1980’s. At first, there was a rare skin cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma that lashed out in the Gay community across the United States, many called it GRID which stands for Gay Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Everyone did not know how it spread so they began to speculate and worry that they would get sick or catch such disease by simply holding hands or from a public toilet seat. At the time there were no real tests and nor treatments.
Because this disease struck specifically to so many men in a short amount of time, they believed it only targeted the gay community. There was even a point in time where they just called it “gay cancer.” In 1982, the CDC “re-named the disease to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)” this occurred because they wanted it to no longer reflect only one community. And so by changing the name it let everyone know that although this virus was highly populated against the gay community there was evidence that showed that it was impacting various populations as well.
For example, injection drug users, Haitians, and hemophiliacs.In the Democratic Republic of Congo, scientist believed that the origin of the HIV infection that occurs in humans came from a chimpanzee. And so according to the Central for disease Control (CDC), they presumed that the “chimpanzee version of the immunodeficiency virus called simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) most likely was transmitted to humans and mutated into HIV when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came into contact with their infected blood.” HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and if that virus is left untreated it can result in the most severe stage of HIV called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or also known as, AIDS. As reported by the HIV.gov website HIV is a virus spread through “certain body fluids that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells.
” Because of HIV and the way this virus kills important cells of the immune system the body can no longer fight certain infections and diseases and can possibly create more of the HIV virus. The HHS Advisory Committee for Blood Safety and Availability (ACBSA) in the year 2010 took into consideration data and proposed for a deferral policy for the Man who has had sex with a man ban. They believed that this ban should be looked at again and that they should conduct more studies in hopes that there could be possibility for potential change in the policy. Therefore on November 13, 2014, when the FDA, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), looked over the results and “voted sixteen to two in favor of a one-year deferral. In December 2014, the US FDA announced that the policy for male donors reporting MSM would change to a one-year deferral from last sexual contact.” And so because they believed a shorter deferral period was appropriate the “policy only restricts any man who has had sex with another man in the past year instead of a life ban” as said on the NCBI website.
Even though this a step in the right direction we are still not understanding that the 12-month ban is still discriminating and targeting those in the LGBTQ+ community from doing something everyone should be apart of. Today blood banks all across the United States of America screen for HIV the virus with an accuracy rate of 99.9% according to the FDA. As stated by the American Red Cross “laboratory tests for multiple infectious disease markers on every unit of donated blood.
Tests are either upgraded or replaced with more sensitive technologies as these become available.” All the blood supply centers which receive donated blood screen for HIV two times “one test checks for the direct presence of HIV genetic material and the other looks for antibodies produced by the immune system to fight HIV.” As of today the odds of you getting “infected by the virus via a blood transfusion is one out of one point five million (American Red Cross).
The number of people getting infected by blood that has been donated have dropped drastically. That statistic is very low because day by day testing methods are being improved with upcoming technology. Some people might say that many Americans have died from AIDS and millions of people have the disease. And because there are so many people in the United States of America there are many who are still willing to and eligible to donate blood. Therefore this could just eliminate the risk factors of a contamination in the United States blood supply. Because there is a high rate of HIV infections among young gay men there is a risk for them to donate blood and further contaminate our blood supply that is used for certain transfusions. However, they don’ t take into consideration that there is a whole wide range of demographics that are as equally likely to transmit this disease.
Just because the word “gay” is not used in the policy does not mean you are not attacking the community. The FDA is discriminating people based on sexual orientation just to keep the blood supply “safe.” They do not take into consideration the number of healthy people in the LGBTQ+ community that are more than willing to donate for a better cause and ultimately feel accepted. They also forget that when you sign up to donate blood the questionnaire given to you is totally based on the honor code. Which means you give your word for it. Therefore one many never know if people told the truth one hundred percent of the time.
Something like traveling to countries or living in country that has a high risk of malaria or something as simple as getting a tattoo or piercing in a specific time frame. This whole MSM ban all goes down to a basic human right matter. The LGBTQ+ community is fighting for equality and the FDA is not moving on and/or trying to reevaluate its blood deferral policies even more.
According to the UPenn journal “the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) estimates that ten point eight million volunteers donate blood each year, less than ten percent of the eligible donors. The great need for blood, coupled with the small pool of donors, has resulted in blood shortages that jeopardize the execution of medical procedures.” And if this is so why not lift the MSM ban? There are so many men who live in a monogamous relationship and protect themselves better than a heterosexual person who is sexually active and having unprotected sex with multiple partners. It is illogical to discriminate against one kind of community when everyone has the risk of containing and spreading this virus. The act of banning a group of individuals from participating in an event based on how they identify themselves is the definition of discrimination.
The MSM ban is based on a theory started in the 1980’s and is not based on facts. This ban that the FDA placed is reinforcing the negative stereotype that all gay men carry HIV/AIDS and spread it. By not letting them donate blood based on orientation the FDA is missing out on potential blood donations from healthy gay donors. Besides stereotyping gay men the policy also “provides false security to high-risk heterosexual donors because it ignores risky heterosexual behaviors, such as multiple partners and unprotected sex, which potentially endanger one’s health and possibly the blood supply (Upenn).” This raises concerns of equality in a constitutional level. How are they allowing the spread of the virus now in 2018 to those people in the LGBTQ+ community?Donating blood is an act of kindness that everyone should be able to participate in. It is something that is gratifying because you are giving back to those in need. Much like those victims of the shooting in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
The size of the epidemic was and still is relatively small compared to the country’s population. This virus is heavily concentrated among several affected populations and does not only occur in one. Therefore this law is using the stigma of gay men and HIV by not allowing the LGBTQ+ community to donate. No person should ever feel like their blood is not worthy or uselessness just because of who they are, just because they love like everyone else.