Sexual orientation still prevents blood donation

By Faith Healy & Ross Hettel

With several blood drives planned this month, the issue of banning homosexual men from donating blood will again come to light.

For 28 years, according to a New York Times article, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned homosexual men, or “males having sex with males (MSM),” from donating blood due to their high risk of contracting the HIV virus.

The FDA may hold to the idea that homosexual men should not donate, but it is the blood and plasma centers that enforce the MSM policy.

For example, according to a July Chicago Sun-Times article, Aaron Pace, 22, visited Bio-Blood Components Incorporated in Gary, Ind. During the screening process, Pace was denied the right to donate since he appeared to be homosexual. Pace, a heterosexual male, found it appalling that homeless people could donate, but homosexuals could not, the Sun stated.

BioLife in DeKalb also upholds the same policy, said Baxter Corporation spokesperson Kellie Hotz, of which BioLife is a part.

“We comply with industry guidelines on eligibility requirements,” Hotz said in an email.

While there have been no documented, specific instances of blood drives and plasma centers turning NIU students away, some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students feel frustrated that they aren’t able to donate, said Molly Holmes, director of NIU’s LGBT Resource Center. The Resource Center has held educational awareness programs to address the issue and advocates a policy change.

“It’s important to realize that changing this ban isn’t going to make the donation process any less safe,” Holmes said. “It’s an opportunity to bring some equality to helping save lives.”

Some students are also against the ban.

“I feel like it is unjustifiable and discriminatory in light of all the evidence against it,” said Lacey LaBelle, senior industrial management technology major.

Sophomore accounting major Dean Tanglis said if homosexuals aren’t banned from playing a bloody sport like football because they are at risk for HIV, they should not ban them from donating blood,

“Anyone who has sex is at risk,” Tanglis said. “If they pass the [STD] test, they should be allowed to donate.”

The FDA states on its website even men in monogamous relationships have increased risks of contracting the virus, and HIV testing is not 100 percent certain — at certain low levels, the virus has “window periods” during which it is not detected through the test.

“The HIV prevalence in potential donors with history of male sex with males is 200 times higher than first time blood donors and 2,000 times higher than repeat blood donors,” the FDA website stated.

While the FDA does not allow homosexual men in a monogamous relationship to donate, it does allow for heterosexuals with multiple partners to donate, despite their rising risks for the HIV virus. While the FDA admits the risk for promiscuous heterosexuals is rising, it still claims that the risk is still much higher in MSM, based on numbers gathered by the Center of Disease Control (CDC).

Heartland Blood Drive

3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 20 in Neptune Hall

3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 27 in Douglas Hall