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Through this I realized there’s certain things the government will or will not talk about. How much it would cost to put homosexual blood through tests, why they haven’t considered it before, and so on. All in all, this paper was meant to trigger an issue that has been forgotten for decades. All of us believe we can do something to better our world, or even the community around us. I wanted to make the reader aware that even though this has been happening since the early nineteen eighties, so much has changed. I wanted the reader not to go PRO-GAY MARRIAGE and all the other things that are happening with homosexuals, but to see that they are a group of people that are being harassed because of their sexual orientation. And for them to think to themselves “Is it right? Or not right?”
“I shouldn’t have to choose between my sexuality and saving lives”
By Marie Caceres
One doesn’t think they can have a big impact on this world with almost seven billion people. You’re a grain in a giant stovetop pot of rice. Yet we all once in a while feel compelled to give something to others that is much needed to live: blood. On a normal day, just like this one, I decided to pick up the Niner Times student-edited newspaper in UNC Charlotte. And there I saw it, on the top. Someone had written a brief article starting with this point: “I’m ,gay. Why can’t I give blood too?” He wrote about how he found it unfair that a few months into the semester, he was turned down due to his sexual orientation. It came to a point where a group of gay students would go up and ask people to donate blood, just because they couldn’t. This law was put into place decades ago, yet so much has been changed the past thirty years. Technology has advanced, many laws, including gay rights, have changed. Now is this ban still being used for the safety and security of the public? Or have the Food and Drug Administration and other organizations put this plan into place as a way of discriminating against the gay community?
The Eighties: Fear, AIDS, and Homophobia In the late 1970’s San Francisco had the highest rates of venereal disease, or VD, in the country. The first articles that appeared in the press were in June of 1981. These followed up with others like “U.S CDC Studies Pneumonia That Strikes Gay Men” and “Gay men and KS”. As illness and deaths kept spreading, the requests for funding finally began. San Francisco in a year was funding two million dollars for research. By 1983, medical associations where manipulating the media as many ways as possible. Then in that same year, an article from the Medical World News was released stating that nitrites aren’t responsible for AIDS. The gay community was blamed and is still being blamed today. The policy clearly states that any man who’s had sex with another man since the year 1977 cannot donate blood because of the high change of HIV/AIDS in the gay community. While I was in the process of writing this paper, many people asked, “Well how would one know if another person is homosexual or not?” That’s simple: In accordance to the FDA policy, male donors are ALWAYS asked in a questionnaire prior to giving blood if they have had male-to-male intercourse. “As science and technology have progressed and we have become far more adept in being able to detect HIV and AIDS in blood, this ban really has just become one of the last messages of written discriminatory policies on LGBT men (Rose).” When the ban first began, it was something logical. It was difficult to test for these diseases in the mid and late 80’s or to really understand them for that matter.
The Real Deal: So who exactly can give blood? The US FDA goes all the way back to 1862 when chemist Charles M. Wethrill set up a lab to begin sampling various things in our everyday lives: food, fertilizers and soils. From then on they always worried about the safety of US citizens. The United States Food and Drug Administration have many strict laws against who can and cannot give blood. Not only are gay men being deferred, but they have also gone far enough to reject people that have visited the United Kingdom. In August of 1999, it was said to be that people that resided in U.K. were in the risk of exposure of nvCJD or New Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease through U.K. blood products (Donating). Carriers of hepatitis viruses can be perfectly healthy and show no case of the strand. They could have negative results due to those virus not always being detectable. Donors who have lived in European countries who have been reported as having
spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, are also automatically disqualified (Owings). Now there was this question that really interested me on the Questions and Answers page of the FDA. Someone asked “Recently, I was informed by my local blood bank that I would no longer be able to donate blood because of an indeterminate test result for HIV. In light of the fact that there is a reported blood shortage, how can I be deferred if it has been determined that I do not have HIV?” The FDA answered back responding, “Once an indeterminate or inconclusive result is obtained, the donor should indefinitely be deferred (Donating).” No matter who you are: Hispanic, Black, White, Asian, Tall, Short, once you have been tested as “inconclusive”, you CANNOT donate blood. Well then what happens to the gay men that have proven to not have the virus? Now what does sexual orientations have to do with it? .In the end of May of 2007, the FDA announced that they would retain the ban. Since then, it has been judged by advocacy groups, physicians, and even politicians. The ACTUAL chance of getting HIV from a blood transfusion is about one per every two million units of blood transfused, so says the FDA’s website (Owings). The policy reflects public health choices from the mid 80’s. In reality, it is true through statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prove that men who have male-to-male intercourse account for the largest number of newly infected people with the viruses. However still, a homosexual man who’s had a monogamous relationship and is completely healthy and HIVnegative, does not have a say. Straight People Can Have HIV too. “If a man has sex with a high-risk woman, he’s allowed back into the donation pool after twelve months,” said Joel Ginsberg, the executive director of Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. “If he has safe sex with another man, he’s banned for life (Owings).”
My Studies: Going into the mind of UNCC students I am a freshman Mechanical Engineering major. On the popular social network site, Facebook, I created a survey for my fellow peers to answer through the UNCC Freshman 2011 group page. I gave them a quick statement of what I was researching and shortly asked them following questions:
1) Have you heard about this before I mentioned it on this page? 2) If yes, where have you heard it from (newspaper, TV, radio, Facebook/Twitter, people, etc.)
3) Do you consider it to be wrong? Should this law stay in place? Or is it something you just don’t really care about? 4) Do you have a homosexual friend? 5) Have you yourself donated or have thought about donating blood? The Chart on the left represents the “Yes” and “No” answers I received. The Pie Chart on the right shows through which methods did these UNCC students heard about the ban.
Most of these People heard it from others, and think it to be wrong. Now can you see how much our voices matter? What Conan’s got to say About It! I listened to Conan interview Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania actually studying the science behind the law on National Public Radio, or as many of us know it, NPR. They said the ban made on gays was “suboptimal”, but was still kept in affect. Now what exactly does “suboptimal” mean? The normal definition found on dictionary.com would be this: being below level or standard. Did the ban make sense at one time? Back in the early 80s, there wasn’t enough proper testing on how to find it. Different donors, and when you’re mixing on infected donor, you are infecting thousands of people and this is crucial to hemophiliacs. Yet did they ever think about other groups that
could perhaps be infected? Heterosexuals that have unprotected sex, those who share IVs and syringes, and those who visit prostitutes. What’s changed since then? Better testing, mapping of the genomes in the viruses. A scientist has discovered how to create copies of the genes of bacteria! It works very well but like most of us know, it wasn’t there in 1983. What happened before would not happen now. Now they say that if you ever had male-to-male intercourse since 1977, you’re out of the blood pool. It doesn’t make any sense and is seen as only the discrimination of one group. Blood supply in the United States is low: 1 in 250 and even a smaller number donate more than once. Older Americans, WW2 veterans and people in that era, donated more than and by excluding gay men, you’re taking out people that could be put in the pool. “I shouldn’t have to choose between my sexuality and saving lives”. The terrible problems in the 80s had a bad scar and experience with dying hemophiliacs, but as sciences moved it isn’t right to pick on one group. How long has this policy been in effect, even though it’s not needed. France has been rid of it, and have had no problem in the safety of the blood. Senator Jon Kerry and others are trying to help ban it yet it still hasn’t happened. People that live in Britain during a certain time (due to Mad Cow Disease) aren’t allowed to give blood, yet there is not technical safe way to keep them in the blood pool, however there hasn’t been any weird deaths or sicknesses because of the disease. “FDA Ban On Blood Donated by Gay Men Upheld” on NPR. Click below! http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128193248 The Ban in Our Own Space This ban on LGBT men has the wrong effect on students in colleges all around the country. People in fact have tried at first boycotting the blood drives, but more of the time they want to educate people who don’t know about this. “I argued it’s not a very good idea to boycott because people need blood. Rather, get students to show they are upset about this policy and pass out fliers and help educate the public of what the issue is (Rose).” See what you can do for our community. There’s more in our world than just what we tweet. EIGHTEEN percent of the blood donated through blood banks come from high schools and colleges. If we, as college students, think we don’t have a say in the world we live in today, we DO.
Bellefountaine, Michael. AIDS in the Early Eighties, "Rethinking AIDS Related Aritcles." Accessed March 13, 2012 "FDA Ban On Blood Donated By Gay Men Upheld." NPR: 1/29/2010. Radio. Owings, Laura. "Is the FDA's Ban on Gay Men Donating Blood Discriminatory?." ABC NEWS. (2007): n. page. Web. 30 Jan. 2012. Rose, Kara. "FDA policy prohibits gay men from donating blood." USA Today College. Web. 30 Jan. 2012. United States. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Donating Blood Questions and Answers. 2009. Web. United States. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Story of The Laws Behind The Labels. 2011. Web. University of North Carolina at Charlotte “Gay Ban on Donating Blood.” Survey. 17 March 2012.
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