Blood ban done for reason
I am writing to publicly address the concerns that have been raised recently in regards to the Rutgers University Senate's report in response to Charge S-0802, "Policies on Participation in Blood Drives." As the author of the report, which was approved by the University Senate's Student Affairs Committee on Sept. 25, as well as the University Senate's Executive Committee on Oct. 9, I stand behind the report and its findings when it comes to blood drives and the Rutgers University Nondiscrimination Policy. I still plan on presenting this report before the Senate at our meeting and also intend to support this measure when it comes up for a vote.
This report was the efforts of countless hours of interviews, research and deliberations of the Student Affairs Committee. As the report indicates, representatives from the Office of General Counsel, Health Services-New Brunswick and the University Blood Drive Committee were consulted in developing this report.
The decision to exclude men who have had sex with men from donating blood is a decision first introduced over 30 years ago by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The exclusion of men who have had sex with men from donating blood amounts to only a small percentage of persons who are automatically denied the right to donate blood because of FDA policy. Other groups include persons born in certain regions of the world, those who have traveled to certain areas or even those who take medications for common conditions such as acne.
Since its inception 30 years ago, the policy has continually been challenged as discriminatory, but in each and every instance over that time span the policy was found to be nondiscriminatory, as there was medical data to support the claim. The Senate is not the lobbying arm of the University. It is our responsibility to review and make recommendations for change to the policies and procedures of the University. This committee reviewed all data, including the legal advice of the University's Counsel, and has concluded that the FDA policy is not in violation with the nondiscrimination policy of the University.
To quote the FDA, "[The] deferral policy is based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex and is not based on any judgment concerning the donor's sexual orientation." The FDA policy does not ban gay men from donating blood; it does, though, exclude a specific at-risk group, men who have had sex with men, from donating blood, because of clinical tests which show this group is more susceptible to an increased risk of HIV infection.
I encourage any members of the University community who feel that this policy is discriminatory to get in contact with the FDA and let them know your concerns. Contact information for the FDA can be found at http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/ContactFDA/default.htm.
Kevin Wild is a University College senior. He is also the co-chair Student Affairs Committee and a member of the Rutgers University Senate.