Way back in October I did my part to save a life, I donated blood at Alpha Phi Omega’s blood drive. A few weeks later I received a phone call that went something like this.
“Hi, is Andrew available?”
“Yes this is him.”
“Hi, Andrew this is Doctor Jones (name has been changed) with the Blood Center of Iowa, and well, there was a question raised about your donation”
“Well…see…um…well..what it boils down to is, are you gay?”
“Oh…well you know you can’t donate blood if you’re gay.”
“Um, no, I didn’t know that.” (knowing that that isn’t really the rule)
“OK, well technically you can’t donate blood if you’ve ever had sex with another man. Have you had sex with another man?”
And we then continued to have a 10-minute conversation on whether or not I was sure if I’ve had sex, if I ever planned to have sex and that according to his records I was 28. The conversation ended with him asking me to never donate again, just to make things easier.
Needless to say, I was a little upset. I had donated plenty of times before and never been harassed about whom I’ve slept with and really didn’t see how it was this doctor’s business anyway. I knew I was HIV free and to top it all off, they had no way of knowing I was gay. It wasn’t like I dropped my “gold gay card” when filling out the paper work, the ignorant nurses just made an assumption.
Well, time passed and I forgot about the whole incident until APO had another blood drive, and then not too long later I heard about the ISU Greek community and its protest of the annual blood drive held on campus because of the regulations that prohibit gay men from donating.
According to the American Red Cross Web site, if you are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977 you are at serious risk of getting infected with the HIV virus (60 times more likely according to the U.S. Food and Drug Association).
While the facts may claim that 77 percent of HIV victims are male and 59 percent of those males contracted the virus from sex with another man, we don’t really know for sure. Besides that the rule seems quite ridiculous when you think about other people who could donate as long as they didn’t have sex with another man.
For example, I could have sex with just one guy who is HIV negative, be HIV negative myself and still use a condom and I still wouldn’t be allowed to donate. But, John Doe could go sleep with 10 different girls without any protection or safety precautions and he could donate, because “he’s not at high risk.”
Critics of the protest at ISU say that the students are being irresponsible and that by not donating blood just to protest the rule, precious lives aren’t being saved and valuable donations aren’t happening, especially now with the blood banks being so low.
Well, my question is, if donating blood is always so important, why not let gays donate? If a person does indeed have HIV they aren’t going to try and donate because they know what the tests will show. On top of that, the blood is tested before it is sent to the blood banks, so even if a person unknowingly has HIV, it gets caught before someone else gets it.
So, while the facts may claim that gays are at high risk for HIV, it doesn’t prove a majority of gays actually have HIV. Not only is the rule stereotypical and labels all gay men (and even the straight ones who’ve experimented) as HIV carriers, it prevents the blood banks from receiving who knows how many donations from clean gay men who could help save lives.
If the Red Cross truly wants to carry out its mission in saving lives it will get with the times and evolve its regulations and allow homosexuals to donate.
And before I finish, I’d like to rewind back to my story. While I was upset and still am that I can’t donate because I’m a homosexual, what pisses me off the most is the fact that my sexual orientation was assumed by the nurses working the blood drive. This just goes to show the ignorance and stereotypes that unfortunately exist in the 21st century, and it saddens me even more that it was assumed by an organization that’s supposed to be helping people and saving lives, not judging them.