Does being gay disqualify you to save someone's life? So it seems...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Young Voices is a Pilot-Tribune feature showcasing the opinion writing of area students

Would you like to donate blood today," the attendant sitting at the registration table asks.

"Boy, would I!" you reply, excited to be able to help three (or six if you donate double units) of your fellow earth-dwellers.

The attendant hands you a form with blanks for all of your vital information.

You fill in your name, birthday, address, boring stuff like that. For height you lie and add an inch. You stretch the truth about your weight and subtract five, maybe 15, pounds.

When that is all done, you flip the sheet over and fill out a mini history probing you about your medications and surgeries and travel that you may have done within the last couple hundred years or so.

After all the paperwork, next comes the best part: the mini physical! After the children's chorus finishes cheering in your head, you are led to an impromptu cubicle and come face-to-face with someone with whom you are about to become very intimate.

Vitals are measured and written down and you now realize that maybe you should work out some more to get your blood pressure and resting heart rate a little bit better. You have blood squeezed from your finger and now you are made painfully aware it may be time to take an iron supplement. But, assuming you make it through all that, now the nurse goes through your history, asking you questions about any answers that may not jive with expectations.

"You have had sexual activity with a man? And you, sir, are a man?" she asks.

"Yes," you reply warily.

"I'm sorry, you cannot donate. Thank you for stopping by. Tah tah," and you are rejected.

How ridiculous is this? It is impossible to donate if a man has had any sexual contact with another man? This is completely discriminatory against any gay man, bisexual man or any man who may have gotten curious that one time on a camping trip when there was nobody else around and he and his buddy got a little experimental.

So why this ludicrous restriction? The policy harkens back to the height of the AIDS epidemic when it was largely considered to be a "gay disease." If a man was having sexual contact with another man, the risk was too great to let his blood enter the general bank.

But today, this practice is absolutely insipid and does nothing but to perpetuate the stereotype that gay men have AIDS or that AIDS only afflicts homosexuals.

This simply is not true. Women and men, straight, gay and all the variations in between, are all equally susceptible to catching HIV and developing AIDS, it is not something that is isolated to the gay community. Also, the blood bank tests all donations for blood-borne pathogens such as HIV anyway. Why not allow men who have sex with men to donate their blood?

This whole issue just irritates me so much. I know so many men who are obligated to lie while filling out that survey just so they can save lives. What is the world coming to when you have to perjure in order to be a savior?

It is time to leave the homophobia that legitimizes stereotypes behind. HIV is not something that only affects men who have sex with men. Get with it, blood banks. Let us donate.