Alex Blaze

Blood discrimination

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 18, 2010 7:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Quote of the Day
Tags: blood ban

"No one has ever told me before I couldn't do something based on my sexual orientation. This is the first time I've ever felt discriminated against."

--Student James Stewart, Jr., on being rejected from donating blood

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I can somewhat understand there being restrictions because gay men do have a statistically higher chance of carrying HIV than straight men. But, if that was the real reason, they'd discriminate against other groups as well. 60% of men were infected due to male on male sexual acts, but half of new cases are in the African American community.

I don't think it's right to claim it's due to statistics for one minority, but to let another minority to donate. If it was about statistics, then sexually active African Americans wouldn't be able to give blood either (and I don't think that changing it so they can't donate is the right solution). It's not about statistics, homosexuals are a group that can be discriminated against without repercussion.

Factor in that there are very reliable tests for HIV testing and that all blood samples are tested for HIV and other diseases and there is no reason for this discrimination.

I stopped giving blood when the ban was instituted. Over 10 years later I thought for sure that something like that would have been reconsidered, so I went to the Red Cross to give, but the question was still there on the form.

I asked the intake nurse if it was indeed true that if I were hetero I could have sex with every woman in town and still give blood, but as a gay man with the same partner for 12 years I could not. She said she agreed with how I felt but that according to the rules, I could not give. I left my paperwork there and left. Mistake!

Two weeks later I got a call from a hostile woman at a Red Cross regional office who asked me when were the first and last times I'd had sex with the same gender. When I declined to answer, she said they would take me to court to find out. I told her to go ahead since I would be the most vocal public media ***hole they had ever met. I never heard from them again.

I used to work for blood banks in both Houston and Austin, TX. The question regarding men having sex with other men comes from the FDA. FDA guidelines require that certain high-risk behavior questions be asked so as to reduce the likelihood of contaminated blood since the blood is intended for use by humans. The testing that's done on the blood prior to it being transfused is accurate but cannot be guaranteed 100% disease free. There are strains of HIV that are undetectable by our current methods of testing. Luckily, these strains have only been found in underdeveloped countries and have yet to surface in the United States.

The questions are an attempt to ensure the safety of the blood supply. It's not personal nor is it discriminatory. It's about high-risk behavior. IV drug abusers are not allowed to donate blood either. If it were discriminatory, then they wouldn't allow lesbians to donate, but they do. Female to female sex is statistically safer than male to male sex due to logistics that I won't go into.

While I understand your feelings of being discriminated against, I hope you can understand the reasoning behind it. I'm lesbian and my son is gay. I can donate. He cannot. I don't take offense nor does he, because we support the FDA in their due diligence in ensuring the safety of the blood supply.

Then why aren't black men and women discriminated against when half of new cases are black?