(U-WIRE) PULLMAN, Wash. – Many Washington State University students donate blood every year, and every year some are turned away due to health factors and lifestyle choices.
There is a long list of reasons why people can’t donate blood; if they have gotten a tattoo or body piercing in the last year, if they ever have been paid for sex, if they are undergoing cancer treatment or if they are on antibiotics to name a few.
A requirement that many are not aware of is the ban against the blood of any man that has had a sexual experience with another man.
“There is a very real possibility of an HIV infection,” said Debbie E. Brudie, Whitman County chair for the American Red Cross.
However, many people in the gay community feel the ban is discriminatory.
“I don’t think it is fair,” said John J. Criswell, a gay student at WSU. “They screen the blood after it’s donated.”
Criswell has never donated blood because he was aware of the ban, but he said that he would donate if he was able to.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are 40,000 new HIV infections every year.
According to the CDC, 42 percent of the 40,000 new cases are men that have had sex with men, 33 percent contracted the infection through heterosexual sex, and 25 percent contracted the infection through injection drug use.
The primary concern of the American Red Cross is to make sure that the blood collected is as safe as possible, Brudie said.
“The Red Cross won’t take blood if there even is a hint of something that’s not right,” Brudie said.
Melynda Huskey, director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Allies program at WSU, said she doesn’t think the American Red Cross’s standards are fair when considering the sexual activity of heterosexuals.
“It’s disturbing,” Huskey said. “As a woman, I could have had sex with hundreds of men and I still wouldn’t be a risk. Just because you are a man that’s had sex with a man, that doesn’t means you are going to have HIV.”
Brudie said the American Red Cross will not take blood from a source they are unsure of.
Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control indicate 42 percent of all new HIV infections are found in men who have sex with men.
However, CDC statistics also indicate 54 percent of all new HIV infections occur among blacks.
Brudie had no comment for the Red Cross’ decision to restrict blood donation based on sexual history rather than ethnicity.