Let's say you are a same-sex couple. You and your spouse have just adopted a beautiful baby boy. This marks a triumph in your life both as a homosexual couple and as a human being, as you have now saved a child from the atrocious foster care system.
In preparation for this event, you have spent the last two years making sure you were ready to meet the strict adoption requirements. You have read all the baby and toddler books. You have even designed the best baby room there has ever been. Finally, after years of hard work and endless paperwork, you now have this amazing new family member that you and your partner can love and cherish for the rest of your lives.
After only six months with the child, however, he becomes deathly ill. You take him to the best hospital in the area and the caring doctors inform you that your child is going to need a blood transfusion. Much to your relief, after weeks of agonizing hospital care, the blood transfusion has worked and your baby is recovering.
Shortly there after, you go in for a routine check up and your doctor becomes concerned that your child may have a more serious condition following the blood transfusion. They do some tests and you receive the worst news a parent could ever hear. Apparently, during the blood transfusion they used blood that had been donated by a carrier of HIV.
After all the work you put into to save your beautiful child from a life of suffering, your child is now going to face a life of certain hardship, due simply to the carelessness of an individual who thought that their freedom from "discrimination" was more important than mitigating the risk of infecting someone else.
Ok, so this story is not a likely occurrence and it is certainly a bit contrived. But, two things should be noted. One, this type of occurrence has happened before, which is part of the reason for a number of the bans placed on blood donation in the ‘80s. Two, one of the reasons that this story is such an unlikely scenario is because of the strict regulations placed on the blood donation process.
Now, in case you haven't heard, the FDA has lifted its ban on homosexual men donating blood.
The FDA has decided to lift their prior ban in favor of a new policy. While it used to be the case the men who participated in male with male sexual intercourse (MSM) were restricted from donating blood indefinitely, the new policy states that homosexual men only have to wait 1 year after an MSM encounter to donate blood.
With new technologies for testing and screening, it only makes sense that the FDA would adjust their policies. And I have no problem with the fact that they have made these adjustments considering how thorough the testing and prevention procedures have become. The FDA made an educated reassessment of their policies, based on new technologies, and I commend them for that. However, while some may hail this as progress for the homosexual community and a stand against discrimination, let's look at this issue objectively.
According to the CDC,
"-bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) of all races and ethnicities remain the population most
profoundly affected by HIV.
-In 2010, the estimated number of new HIV infections among MSM was 29,800, a significant 12% increase from the
26,700 new infections among MSM in 2008.
-Although MSM represent about 2% of the male population in the United States, in 2010, MSM accounted for 78% of
new HIV infections among males and 63% of all new infections. MSM accounted for 57% of all people living with HIV
infection in 2011, the most recent year these data are available.
-In 2010, white MSM continued to account for the largest number of new HIV infections (11,200), by transmission
category, followed closely by black MSM (10,600).
-The estimated number of new HIV infections was greatest among MSM in the youngest age group. In 2010, the
greatest number of new HIV infections (4,800) among MSM occurred in young black/African American MSM aged 13–
24. Young black MSM accounted for 45% of new HIV infections among black MSM and 55% of new HIV infections
among young MSM overall.
-Since the epidemic began, an estimated 311,087 MSM with an AIDS diagnosis have died, including an estimated
5,380 in 2012."
Figure 1: Estimated New HIV Infections in the United States, 2010, for the Most Affected Subpopulations
Let's break this down. Half of the people living with HIV in 2011 (the most recent data), were men who participated in MSM. To put that into perspective, by restricting homosexual male participation the FDA potentially cuts the risk of transmission of HIV through blood transfusion in half.
So, let me ask you this, if it is within the power of an agency to diminish the potential for the spread of disease, is it discrimination to restrict a high-risk group from participating? Furthermore, it should be noted, that this is not simply a restriction against MSM participants. The restrictions for "high-risk" donors spans a wide variety of demographics. (For the complete and extensive list of people who are restricted from donating please follow this link: http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-topic)
This is certainly something to consider. While some are making this another gay-rights issue, I suggest that we be more objective in our consideration, and regard this as what it is: a public safety issue. The problem with that suggestion, however, is that we as a society seem to be more interested in a confused sense of "equality" than on the protection of people's lives. We have become so enamored with the idea of "equality," that we err on the side of freedom, to the neglect of safety.
Now let me be perfectly clear, this is not a treatise against homosexual men donating blood. In fact, I am beyond proud of my generation that we have taken the time to try fix and prevent the evils of discrimination. My concern is found more precisely in how we consider issues in our current sociopolitical climate. While we are trying to make life better for the individual, we cannot not forget that many of the actions that an individual participates in have the potential to harm others. Let us not conflate the ideas of discrimination and prevention. While hatred has been shown to some in the name of "prevention," let us not forget that prevention is not always a means for evil. If we want to consider ourselves a truly progressive society, we must remember to look out for the rights and safety of everyone, not just the marginalized.
The main concern of this article was regarding the FDA policy being turned into a gay-rights issue, when it was never a gay-rights issue in the first place.
The policies crafted for the purpose of regulating the donation of blood from the MSM demographic was made in light of health related issues, not discrimination.
The point of the article was to show that there was never a discriminatory element to the policy in the first place, so to assume that a discrimination was lifted when the ban was lifted is to completely miss the point of the ban in the first place and furthermore, distort the understanding of the process and purpose of regulation.
The most important consideration in the article is regarding intellectual soundness, this issue was just a fitting talking point.
Thom Schultz is a writer/philanthropist/musician from Tampa, Fl. He has a Bachelors in English Literature with a Minor in Philosophy from the University of South Florida. He is currently studying for his Master of the Liberal Arts Degree at the University of South Florida St. Pete. He also plays drummer and writes much of the lyrics for his band I Shot the Albatross.
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