Editorial: Blood drives show health is still political for queer people

The nationwide blood scarcity is rising extra extreme by the day. In March of 2020, when COVID-19 compelled blood drive cancellations, there have been 86,000 fewer donations nationwide. 

UNC is internet hosting its twenty third annual Vacation Blood Drive subsequent month, in partnership with the Purple Cross, and college students are inspired to point out up and donate to fight this public well being emergency, however one obvious guideline continues to be a barrier to donations: homosexual and bisexual males face limits on their potential to donate.

The FDA doesn’t enable males who’ve intercourse with males (MSM) to donate blood inside three months of intercourse. This coverage is a shift from a lifetime ban on MSM’s blood donations, which changed into a 12-month deferral in 2015 to deal with blood shortages. The coverage extends past blood to different bodily fluids and comfortable tissue donation, like sperm or corneas.

The availability shortages worsened by the pandemic led the Purple Cross to scale back this prerequisite to a three-month deferral. For a lot of homosexual and bisexual males, a three-month deferral nonetheless leads to ineligibility.

These insurance policies have their origins within the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the Eighties, the place MSM had been thought to have a better incidence of HIV. It’s value noting that this area of well being coverage was creating at a time when HIV was not properly understood, and the power to deal with it or take a look at for it in donations was nonexistent.

At this time, all donations are examined for blood-borne illnesses with excessive accuracy. As an alternative of science, prejudice drove coverage. And the consequences of those prejudices linger right this moment.

Homosexual and bisexual males, though going through increased charges of HIV an infection than their lesbian or heterosexual counterparts, will not be the one teams who’re deemed high-risk. The truth is, anybody’s threat for HIV or STD an infection is very variable and is dependent upon particular person behaviors.

Below FDA rules, nevertheless, homosexual males participating in protected intercourse or in monogamous relationships – low-risk behaviors – are barred whereas heterosexual donors who could interact in unsafe intercourse or different dangerous behaviors will not be.

These insurance policies don’t deal with teams of comparable an infection threat equally, reflecting not solely lapses in well being coverage but additionally the prejudices of the time through which they had been made.

Well being is inherently political and doesn’t at all times evolve logically. MSM’s participation in blood drives is significant to fixing the blood scarcity within the U.S. and producing extra equitable well being coverage outcomes. As an alternative, anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments make us cautious of complete demographics slightly than the behaviors that logically produce poor public well being outcomes.

Those that are eligible ought to consider donating blood on Dec. 8 at Fetzer Hall, from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Whether or not you’re eligible or not, everybody ought to advocate for the rights of homosexual and bisexual males within the public well being area.


opinion@dailytarheel.com | elevate@dailytarheel.com

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