In the wake of the terrible mass shooting in and Orlando, Florida night club, people have been lining up outside blood banks and donation centers to give blood in the hopes of helping the victims of this tragedy. I was immediately struck by an interesting realization upon reading this information: those who identify as any sexual orientation beyond heterosexual are prohibited from donating blood. Since this shooting occurred in a night club that caters to a LGBTQ clientele, I found it to be an odd thing.
The reason gay men specifically are banned from blood donations lies primarily in outdated research and beliefs. The lifetime ban put into effect in 1983 was a response to the growing AIDS crisis in America and a hope that it would keep blood banks clean and prevent blood transmission of the disease.
The only problem is that AIDS does not just affect the gay community and it is not only transmitted through sexual contact. It can be transmitted through needle sharing or even breast milk. In addition, donated blood is tested AND cleaned before being sent off to blood banks and stored in hospitals. Any donation that comes back positive for any disease tested for is destroyed and the donor notified of the results.
Banning gay men from donating is pointless in today’s day when technology has advanced considerably. Even those who staff and operate blood donation centers admit that the bans are ridiculous and pointless. The American Red Cross is constantly calling for blood donors, but they are regularly running short. And my opinion is that perhaps they would get more donors if they lifted this ban.
It is painfully obvious that this ban is no more than another method of attacking the gay community. I say it is time for these bans to be lifted and it is time for anyone who wishes to donate blood be allowed to do so, regardless of their sexual orientation. As it stands, gay men are allowed to donate blood only if it has been 12 months or longer since their last sexual encounter with a man. That is far too long and far too much of an expectation and quite frankly, a ridiculously arbitrary number designed for humiliation.
Gay men have been the target, yet women are permitted to donate without question. Why is that? Women, straight or otherwise, can easily be HIV positive. They can be HIV positive, regardless of sexual orientation as well. Many straight women are HIV positive because of partners who do not disclose their own status or unknowingly infect them. More over, a gay man can easily lie about his orientation and no one would ever know.
I call for a complete removal of all bans for blood donations. Blood is blood and it is ridiculous to assume that a gay man would be HIV positive just because of his orientation alone. That would be like assuming a black man is a thief, because of his skin tone alone or a Muslim man is a terrorist because of his religion alone.
It is time for these ridiculous attacks on the LGBTQ community to stop. Because if given the choice between accepting a gay man’s blood donation and dying on the operating table, I’d prefer to live, thank you very much.