Blood drive discrimination unfair
Each year dozens of centers, departments and student organizations at the University come together to organize blood drives and other events that encourage students to donate blood and give back to the community. But some students are limited in the ways that they can contribute, with the Food and Drug Administration currently prohibiting men who have had sex with men from donating blood. More specifically, any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 — the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States — is ruled out based on his risk for HIV and other diseases that may be transmitted by blood. Those diseases, of course, are tested for prior to transfusion, but this population continues to be deferred for blood donation in the United States. Though supporters argue that this precautionary measure can help decrease the risk of false negatives on HIV tests, the law contains no restrictions on many other high risk sexual behaviors. Conceivably, a heterosexual person who has had unprotected sex with multiple partners can give blood while a man who engaged in protected sex with another man three decades ago will be barred from doing the same.
Clearly, this law is both redundant and inconsistent — but above all it is discriminatory, isolating a community that should in no way threaten the practice of donating blood. For this reason, the Rutgers University Senate plans to vote on whether or not blood drives violate the University's nondiscrimination policy Friday. Unfortunately, the potential outcome of this vote is worrisome for a number of reasons. First of all, should the Senate acknowledge the discriminatory nature of this law, we would face the danger of having to ban blood drives from the University, as some schools around the country already have. Voting that the law is not discriminatory, though, would directly undermine the efforts of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning community at the University in our fight for equality, sending a very negative message to the University at large. As we approach the 40th year of LGBT activism at the University this year and look back at all the accomplishments that have been made, we must realize that no good can come from this decision, and we cannot afford that setback.
So, what are our options? The University, after all, must abide by FDA laws when allowing blood drives to take place on campus. But this does not mean that they must agree with the legal restriction itself. The Rutgers University Student Association will have a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 22 to offer a resolution based on that very idea, supporting the continuation of blood drives on campus while opposing the discrimination sanctioned by current law. The meeting is planned for 7 p.m. in the Student Activities Center on the College Avenue campus, and we urge all available students to attend and support their decision. Hopefully, student support will push the Senate to table this issue for the time being and consider the implications of simply voting "yes" or "no" in response to the question at hand.
Cynthia Douglas is a Livingston College senior and Lauren Felton is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in English and sociology. They are executive board members for LLEGO, the Queer People of Color Union at the University.