No, I am not a racist, no matter what you think of the title of this piece.
As a man, I have been deluged with advertisements, solicitations, commercials, and emails asking me to give blood. And really, I would like to. My family has a history of donating blood regularly. Yet as a GAY man, every time I am exposed to these ads, I am once again reminded that yet another segment of government, the FDA, sees me as less than equal. Despite the fact that I have NEVER been promiscuous, have never used intravenous drugs, and generally take pretty good care of my health (well, except for the cigarettes), and despite the newest proven methods for testing blood for HIV, I am BANNED from donating blood, no matter how desperate the need for healthy blood, simply because I have had sex with my boyfriend.
On March 8th of this year, the American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks and America’s Blood Centers all requested that the FDA lift its lifetime ban that bars as a blood donor any man who has had sex with another man since 1977. While the policy was initially put in place due to part science, part hysteria, the science has come about to accurately pinpoint which blood contains the virus–and the policy is ridiculous on the face of it because a gay man who knows he’s healthy and wants to donate blood could just lie about his sexuality anyway, which completely refutes any semblance of scientific reliability.
Now comes an article in the Washington Post (Black America Must Confront AIDS) that emphasizes the Black community as the new front in the battle against the AIDS pandemic:
The face of AIDS in the United States is primarily black as well. The majority of new HIV infections here are black, the majority of people who die from AIDS here are black and the people most at risk of contracting this virus in the United States are black. AIDS is now in our house. It’s now our problem, and we must come up with solutions.
Obviously, I don’t seriously think that we should ban blood donations from all black people. That would be just plain silly, now, wouldn’t it? However, when the black community recognizes itself as the new forefront of this battle, and the science backs this fact up, why does the FDA continue to discriminate against gay blood donations if we’re still the riskiest group?
As the link above pointedly emphasizes, AIDS is a serious matter. We need to tackle it together, black and white, man and woman. We need to take serious steps as a society to engender honest discussion about sex, drug abuse, HIV transmission, condoms, abstinence, oral sex, and more. Or we can continue to segment off whichever group is “the riskiest” according to stereotypes, not science, until we’re down to no one left to donate blood in the first place.
In which case, I’m sorry, but the blacks are next.