Gay rights is, as anyone with eyes or ears can tell, a hot-button issue. There is debate over whether or not recognizing homosexuals as a population protects their basic rights, or gives them “special privileges.” Until the debate is decided, gay men do not have the right to marry in most places. They do not have the right to adopt in the state of Florida. And in one way, they do not have the right to save lives.
Since 1985, “any male who has had sex with another male since 1977, even once,” has been forbidden from donating blood by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is no concession for the monogamous-a monogamous couple is the same as a hustler, is the same as two male roommates who had too much to drink that one night. Just as gays have been lumped in with murderers, rapists, and pedophiles by certain religious groups, they are here associated with intravenous drug-users in the risk factor of their behavior. No matter how many clean bills an “active” homosexual receives, he is considered tainted for life.
The reason is as painfully obvious as it is ridiculous: AIDS. Though science tells us that the HIV virus can be prevented through safe sex and can be transmitted just as easily by straight people, the concepts of gayness and disease are still intertwined in the public consciousness-or at least the minds of the FDA and the American Red Cross. The rule forbidding blood donation has been in effect since 1985, since the days the Reagan administration was largely ignoring the new “gay disease.” Our knowledge of the disease has progressed since then. The rules have not.
The issue becomes whether or not, then, the blood ban is discriminatory, or strictly a safety measure. Consider this: AIDS can be screened for. Ninety percent (a wildly over-exaggerated number) of gay men could have AIDS, and any infected blood given could be detected and thrown out. An Associated press article, printed in the St. Petersburg Times on Feb. 26, 2005, states that HIV infections are up amongst African-Americans, while hovering at the same level for whites. Should the American Red Cross ask a potential donor if they have ever slept with a person of black descent? Would asking such a question seem prejudicial, not to mention invasive? Would it be right to exclude healthy African-Americans (and their partners) from giving life-saving blood because a detectable disease happens to have a somewhat higher instance in their community? I don’t think so. And I don’t think such a stigma should be held against homosexual men either.
Blood is blood. There is no difference between gay and straight blood. AIDS is not a “gay disease.” Everyone with a mote of reason understands this. It is time for the FDA to acknowledge it as well.
Zack Hirschinger is a junior majoring in motion pictures. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.