Op-Ed: By hosting blood drives, GW fails to fight homophobia

Daniel Morris is a freshman majoring in international affairs.

GW Red Cross, with assistance from the National Red Cross, held another blood drive in the Marvin Center this week.

The Red Cross headquarters on E Street. Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons license
The Red Cross headquarters on E Street. Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons license

Had the conditions been different, I would have loved to donate my blood. However, as a gay male, I am neither welcome nor accepted at these events. This is because of an outdated and homophobic policy of not accepting or deferring blood given by gay males based off of the statistic that gay males are more likely to have HIV. In fact, under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, all United States blood drives are required to follow this policy.

The blood drive was yet another missed opportunity for the University to take a stand, support its large gay community, and refuse to participate in a discriminatory event.

If GW students choose to no longer donate until this discriminatory ban is lifted, they will not be alone. In fact, many colleges have banned blood drives already. This includes well-known universities such as the University of Vermont, Keene State and San Jose State.

Just last year, the American Medical Association and the American Osteopathic Association wrote on how this policy is both discriminatory and exclusive. Now is the time to continue the pressure on the FDA.

A boycott taking place at GW, located just a block away from the Red Cross headquarters, would certainly send a message.

One in five gay men in the U.S. are HIV positive, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Similarly, one in 16 African-Americans will be diagnosed with HIV, and those living below the poverty level are twice as likely to have the virus than those who are not. Even though these two particular subgroups have a significantly higher chance of getting HIV, it is only gay males who are turned away for trying to give blood. It is both unfair and illegitimate for the FDA to single out gay males as a subgroup that should not donate – and it is even worse for our school to participate.

Let me be clear: I am not advocating that all people be made eligible to give blood. It is, in fact, responsible to survey potential donors. I should to be extended the same opportunities as heterosexuals — being asked whether I have ever been in an unsafe sexual situation or being asked if I have ever tested positive for HIV, for example – rather than simply being denied because of my sexual orientation.

Some people believe that gays are inherently more likely to have HIV. But a male who has sex with another male is perfectly capable of having safe, protected sex for the duration of his lifetime. It goes without saying that the vast majority of gay people do not have HIV, and the majority of people who are infected with the virus are indeed straight.

It should also be noted that allowing gay males to donate would open up a whole new demographic for donations. Indeed, it is estimated that blood donation organizations miss out on 219,000 blood donations annually, which could help to save 657,000 lives.

I find this discrimination disturbing, especially because this organization that is responsible for so much good is denying me a chance to help others.

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