Monday, August 18, 2008

The Gift of Life

We are always hearing about the importance of donating blood. "Give the gift of life," they say. Well a friend of mine tried to and was turned away! Here's what happened: A coworker of his put out the call for donors because her father was in the hospital needing surgery and potentially needing a lot of blood. My friend was of the right blood type and so agreed to donate. When he got there they asked a few questions. One of them was "Have you every had sex with a man?" My gay male friend was honest and said yes. Now I don't know him extremely well, but he is in a relationship and I believe he is faithful to his partner. The blood bank folks didn't ask that though. I was amazed!

I just now went to the American Red Cross website and under elegibility, it says that certain people cannot give blood. Among them "if you have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test, or if you have done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV."

Then they say: "You are at risk for getting infected if you:
* have ever used needles to take drugs, steroids, or anything not prescribed by your doctor
* are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977
* have ever taken money, drugs or other payment for sex since 1977
* have had sexual contact in the past 12 months with anyone described above
* received clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia
* were born in, or lived in, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea,Gabon, Niger, or Nigeria, since 1977."

Look closer at that second one which says you are at risk if you "are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977. My mouth is still hanging wide open! If you had sex in 1977 and have been tested each year since and always been negative, it would seem then that your blood would be okay, but not according to these guidelines. In fact, what they are saying here is that gay men cannot give blood. (I'm not quite sure how taking money for sex puts you at risk, but that's another matter).

Don't get me wrong folks, I want the blood supply to be safe, but this really seems to be just another case of discrimination. What do YOU think?

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