School suspends blood drives over anti-gay donation discrimination
posted at 7:28 pm on May 6, 2010 by Cassy Fiano
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