Green Room

School suspends blood drives over anti-gay donation discrimination

posted at 7:28 pm on May 6, 2010 by

San Jose State University has continued their policy of suspending all campus blood drives, based on the FDA policy that does not allow donations from gay men. They say that this violates their discrimination policies. I suppose they feel they’re making a moral stand.

Former SJSU President Don Kassing found that the Food and Drug Administration policy that bans gay men from donating blood violates the school’s non-discriminatory laws.

In an online message to the campus on Jan. 29, 2008, he stated there would be a suspension of blood drives on campus.

Men who have had sexual relations with other men continue to be banned from donating blood, according to the FDA’s Web site.

President Jon Whitmore decided to continue the suspension against blood drives, said Pat Lopes Harris, director of media relations at SJSU.

“He reviewed the material and he knew the Academic Senate felt strongly about the blood drive suspension,” Harris said. “He respects the position we had taken.”

A man who has had sexual relations with any man, even just once, since 1977, is not allowed to donate blood. It may seem cruel and bigoted, but the FDA policy is in place for good reason. Gay and bisexual men are 44 times more likely to contract HIV. When you’re talking about blood and tissue donation, this is something you just can’t be flexible on. Imagine the horror of receiving a blood transfusion and finding out it’s been tainted with HIV. Just as recently as 2002, two people contracted HIV through tainted blood transfusions. There have been approximately 9,000 Americans infected with AIDS from tainted blood transfusions; tennis player Arthur Ashe and Indiana teenager Ryan White were two famous examples.

This is not to say that all of these people were infected solely from gay men. It’s to point out that there are legitimate cases of tainted blood transfusions, and that they can be deadly. And while the likelihood of receiving a tainted blood transfusion is rare, the risk is still there. Luckily, the risk has been greatly minimized — the FDA’s strict donation requirements are why. Considering the risk of tainted blood transfusions and the fact that gay and bisexual men are at a considerably higher risk for HIV/AIDS, it seems reasonable for the FDA to bar gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

Does any of that matter to the SJSU administration? Of course not; they have politically correct policies to uphold, life-saving blood drives be damned. Even students who agreed that the FDA’s discriminatory policy be changed — something that is entirely debatable — felt that banning campus blood drives was wrong.

Here’s why. People need blood donations every day — they need it every minute of every day. If you get into a car accident and need to have surgery, for example, you’ll need red blood cells. Platelets are used to control bleeding and can be used for patients with cancers like leukemia. Plasma can help stop bleeding and restores fluid volume in patients suffering from shock. Cryoprecipitate, found in plasma, can be used to treat people with blood clotting disorders such as hemophilia. To say that we need blood is a massive understatement. Blood donations are vital.

To keep up the patient need, the Red Cross needs to collect over 6 million blood donations a year. The Red Cross consistently faces shortages of blood, however, because not nearly enough people who are able to donate actually do. Blood drives are helpful for this very reason; it opens the door for people to donate who might not otherwise have done so. And when you do it on college campuses, it’s especially useful. Getting young people into the habit of donating blood every two months via campus blood drives is a great way of making those young people into lifetime donors.

These college administrators are making this out to be an issue of bigotry when it’s actually a health safety issue. And by suspending campus blood drives, they’re suspending a program that saves lives. It’s absolutely ludicrous.

Hat Tip: Eugene Volokh

Cross-posted from Cassy’s blog. Stop by for more original commentary, or follow her on Twitter!

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As a gay man who disagrees with the FDA about gay men being allowed to donate blood, I deeply abhor the school administrators banning blood drives. When academics try to show their power, it’s usually something just flat out stupid like this. The academics banning ROTC on campuses for the military’s homophobic stance had the effect of reducing the people in the military from the more pro-gay areas of the country and thus is prolonging Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Of course, the ROTC ban was a bad idea for many other reasons.

Sadly, academics never learn.

thuja on May 7, 2010 at 9:07 AM

San Jose State University has continued their policy of suspending all campus blood drives, based on the FDA policy that does not allow donations from gay men. They say that this violates their discrimination policies.

I guess it was also Discrimination when the FDA banned blood donations from Military members who were stationed in England, because of the slight chance of contracting Mad Cow disease. I don’t know if the ban is still in effect, but it used to be. Since when is medical reasons not good enough.

BDU-33 on May 7, 2010 at 11:52 AM

I guess the school administrators should hope that no students/staff ever need blood products.

katiejane on May 7, 2010 at 4:12 PM

It is actually pretty difficult to give blood. I’ve been turned down before.

It’s unfortunate that there aren’t better ways for making sure people are clean before donating. I’m sure they’d rather that as many people as possible could be eligible.

Esthier on May 7, 2010 at 5:20 PM

This is just one more example of liberal policy makers in charge, putting the public at risk. Pinheads like this should be run out of university systems all together.

belad on May 8, 2010 at 10:19 AM

There are some ideas so stupid that no one would adopt them. This rule does not apply to academia where no idea is too stupid to find adherents on campus.

SPQR on May 8, 2010 at 2:30 PM

You also can’t donate blood if you’ve been a prostitute. You can’t donate blood if you’ve been to certain countries. You can’t donate blood if you take certain medications.

The fact of the matter is they need to reduce risk of contaminated blood as much as possible. They do screen the blood, but that isn’t foolproof. By reducing the pool of donors with elevated risk factors.

Gay men aren’t just at a higher risk for HIV either, Hepatitis C is quite an epidemic in the homosexual community as well, something that isn’t discussed much. Hep C can be just as deadly as AIDS.

They must reduce risk. It’s not prejudice, it’s good medical practice.

flyfishingdad on May 8, 2010 at 7:03 PM

You also Cannot donate blood if you ever had Hepatitis.

“If you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C, or ever tested positive for one of them, you can’t donate blood. In fact, if you’ve had any kind of viral hepatitis, or unexplained jaundice, at any time since you were age 11, you’re not able to donate blood.

Also there are a lot of other reasons one may not give blood

http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-alphabetical-listing

Those who have ever used IV drugs that were not prescribed by a physician are not eligible to donate. This requirement is related to concerns about hepatitis and HIV.

You should not give blood if you have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test, or if you have done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV.

You are at risk for getting infected if you:
· have ever used needles to take drugs, steroids, or anything not prescribed by your doctor
· are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977
· have ever taken money, drugs or other payment for sex since 1977
· have had sexual contact in the past 12 months with anyone described above
· received clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia
· were born in, or lived in, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea,Gabon, Niger, or Nigeria, since 1977.
· since 1977, received a blood transfusion or medical treatment with a blood product in any of these countries, or
· had sex with anyone who, since 1977, was born in or lived in any of these countries. Learn more about HIV Group O, and the specific African countries where it is found.
You should not give blood if you have any of the following conditions that can be signs or symptoms of HIV/AIDS
· unexplained weight loss (10 pounds or more in less than 2 months)
· night sweats
· blue or purple spots in your mouth or skin
· white spots or unusual sores in your mouth
· lumps in your neck, armpits, or groin, lasting longer than one month
· diarrhea that won’t go away
· cough that won’t go away and shortness of breath, or
· fever higher than 100.5 F lasting more than 10 days.

DSchoen on May 9, 2010 at 5:32 AM

DSchoen on May 9, 2010 at 5:32 AM

All of those things, and you can’t donate if you have high blood pressure, or if you liver enzymes are elevated even for reasons that are non-infectious.

Some day the screening tests will improve further, or they’ll develop an artifical blood substitute (they’re actually pretty close to one now) so that many more people can donate blood, it’s certainly needed.

Closing down a blood drive is horrible, and political correctness has already infiltrated science and medical care too much. That was even before ObamaCare.

DrAllecon on May 9, 2010 at 7:18 PM