September 26, 2018 | ° F

FDA blood ban consistent with U. policy

Blood donation from men who have had sex with men is not allowed at the University, and it's not against the University's nondiscrimination policy, according to the University Senate Student Affairs Committee.

The Student Affairs Committee submitted the report to the Executive Committee, who will present the findings to a vote before the entire Senate on their Oct. 23 meeting in Camden.

"When it comes to blood drives, it is not a University decision that makes the blood drives discriminatory," Student Affairs Committee Co-Chair Kevin Wild said. "At no time does the University flat out say ‘gay men cannot donate blood.'"

The University has to follow this policy on blood donations because all donations must follow the regulations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA continues to follow this policy because of research, which shows that men who have sex with men show high rates of HIV/AIDS infection.

The language of the report states barring blood donations from men who have sex with men is not a discriminatory practice that violates the University's non-discrimination policy, and they acknowledge the great benefit of the blood donations from students.

"I feel as though that it disenfranchises people who are in the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community who are men who have sex with men," Queer Caucus Officer Shawnna James said. "[The policy] makes it [as] though if you are a man who had sex with a man that you are unworthy to donate blood. This is the same stigma associated with gay men from the '80s, which is not true."

This report will be brought to discussion by the Queer Caucus at a meeting today, said James, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

"I agree with the idea that blood drives shouldn't be banned, but I'm not sure if this doesn't violate the nondiscrimination policy," Rutgers University Student Assembly University Affairs Committee Chair Ben West said. "I don't think the Senate had to make any statement that this isn't discriminatory. By not acknowledging that this is discriminatory, we are being unfair to the LGBT community."

The Senate report makes recommendations to alleviate the sensitive nature of being denied the opportunity to donate.

It recommends expanding the membership and availability of information from the University Blood Drive Committee, putting up an eligibility notice on all media related to blood drivers on campus and prohibiting from organizations to give incentive to people for their donations.

"The question that must be asked [is,] ‘Should the University support a policy which will prohibit groups of its students from participating?' It is my opinion, as well as the opinion of an overwhelming majority of my committee, that blood drives should indeed be continued to be held," said Wild, a Rutgers-Newark senior.

The Senate makes recommendations on how to best run the procedures and policy of the University, he said. The Senate doesn't lobby for specific issues or make statements — it addresses issues pertaining directly to the University.

"These recommendations we have proposed before the entire Senate are only going to lead to more awareness of the policies of who can and cannot donate blood, why that is so and perhaps even produce a more educated student body, who could, in return, lobby to have the FDA policy reversed," Wild said.

But some disagree that this is the best way to address this issue.

"I don't think the Senate should say that this doesn't violate the non-discrimination; there's been other places that made the statement, but this is discriminatory but it can still continue. FDA's findings have been questioned," said West, a Rutgers College senior.

According to the report, Associate General Counsel to the University Berkman Rich said the FDA policy has been challenged multiple times in the past 30 years and has always been proven to be nondiscriminatory.

West is organizing an event to show the potential blood that can be donated by men who have sex with men, where this group will find eligible friends to donate blood instead of them.

"Everybody should be given an opportunity to give blood since everyone is screened for infection. We can't ignore national guidelines but we can do something positive about it instead," West said. "This is a step in the wrong direction to say that this policy is nondiscriminatory."

Cagri Ozuturk

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