I think it is way passed time to talk about the restrictions on donating blood based off of
sexuality and sexual activity. Back in 1985, stemming from panic over the AIDS epidemic, a federal law was passed stating that any man who had sex with another man since the year 1977 cannot donate blood. I hope that this law reads as hypocritical and unproductive because quite frankly it is. The outbreak and rapid spread of HIV/AIDS was and still is popularly blamed on the homosexual community (gay men in particular).
HIV and AIDS are spread through blood, vaginal fluid, semen, and breast milk. All people are therefore equally susceptible of contracting and spreading HIV. While it is true that men who have sex with other men make up a larger amount of people statistically who have HIV, that should never be interpreted as all or even most men who have sex with other men have HIV.
In 2015, in response to growing pressure to let go of the ban, the law was changed to state that men who have not had sexual relations with another men for at least a year can donate blood. While this law may be an improvement in terms of widening who can donate blood, it is almost more insulting than helpful. It does not address at all why this law was so wrong in the first place. All blood that is donated is screened for HIV and other diseases before it is used. It is true that HIV may not be discovered in a blood test for up to a month, that is the case for all people, not just men who have sex with other men. The year time frame is completely arbitrary and is just a reflection of societal fear and mistrust of gay men of those who engage in homosexual activity. The fact that the rule is not all people must be abstinent for the last month speaks for itself on the intentions and reasoning of this clause. Not only does this law exist, but when you donate blood, you are required to specifically detail your recent (and not so recent) sexual encounters, particularly if they were with men who identify as homosexual. These questions are completely irrelevant and offensive quite frankly. Viruses do not discriminate their hosts in such a way, so why should we?
I urge everyone to think twice about the next time they donate blood and fight for the complete lifting of the ban. Passing on the knowledge that the lifting of the ban will in no way endanger anyone is vital to spreading awareness and understanding. It is distressing to think that sexual orientation or consensual sexual engagement is the reason that more people are not able to donate blood and potentially save lives. We, as a people, can do better than that.
I'm a bi female undergraduate student majoring in Psychology, with minors in Women and Gender Studies and African American Studies. I am passionate about issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, and intend to get my masters in social work in order to serve those populations.