By Azzurra M. Editor’s Column
2015 saw huge positive changes for the LGBT Community. Gay marriage became legal in every state in America and there was a new heightened awareness regarding the Transgender community, which can be credited to the Olympic Athlete Bruce Jenner’s public transition. Despite these changes, one can still argue that there is a great “stigma” towards the gay community. While it is okay for political changes and publicized Media coverage, however, in many cases, when these developments begin to affect people’s personal lives, the response can be considered somewhat different.
I was reading the news towards the end of December when this exact idea began to surface. For the first time since 1985, the US has allowed gay men to donate blood as long as they take a year of celibacy. For the last 20 years a ban has been in place to try and prevent the spread of AIDS. While the policy issued by the FDA is an act of complete discrimination, it, along with the public response bases its opinions on stigmas dating back to the 80s rather than medical facts. However, as since science has developed of the last 20 years, it has become clear that HIV and more specifically AIDS is not isolated only in gay men, therefore why is only one sexually orientated group being forced to abstain from sex if they want to save lives? When donating blood everyone is required to undergo a medical test to scan for diseases, it goes without saying that those who prove positive for any diseases are not permitted to donate blood. Shouldn’t these tests be enough to deter someone from donating blood, instead of having to undergo a year of celibacy? A common counter argument to this is that a gay man has “more chance” of contracting AIDS, and may contract the disease in between medical tests. In fact, anyone can contract a disease post testing. The simple answer, increase the frequencies of tests.
Despite being outraged by the backwardness of this policy, I decided to conduct some research on whether or not the abolishment of this policy would actually have a significant impact. There are many countries where the ban does not exist: Argentina, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Spain just to name a few, all of which claim that there is no concrete evidence to restrict gay men from donating blood. To further prove this, in the US a study conducted in 2014 concluded that by removing the ban would increase the amount of people donating blood from 9.2 million to an increase of 13.4 million. Many US States such as New York have such a shortage of donated blood that they are regularly importing blood from outside states. An increase of 4.2 million donors would allow many of these shortages to be resolved. Surely, its simple, an increase in the people able to donate will result in an increase in donated blood.
While many people may argue that gay men being unable to donate blood, without not having sex for a year, is a trivial example of a prejudice. In fact, some people may even go as far to suggest that since the permanent ban has been removed, society is making improvements towards equality. However, in my opinion, the problem extends beyond the requirement of celibacy, it’s the fact that a whole sexual orientation is being categorized. As people, humans, citizens we should never be grouped by our sexuality, whether that be politically, socially, or in the case of donating blood, medically. Why should one “group” of men be penalized for wanting to do something that could save a life?