Since 1985, the United States Food and Drug Administration has banned blood donations from homosexual men. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questionable (LGBTQ) student activist group NKY Equality Now, is protesting to have the FDA policy removed.
Last year, NKY Equality Now protested at Cincinnati-based Hoxworth Blood Center’s bi-annual blood drive.
“We don’t protest Hoxworth, we protest the policy,” said Michael Loch, junior double major in international studies and communication and president of NKY Equality Now. “We believe everyone should have the right to save a life.”
Loch explained that the policy was put in force when little was known about the HIV/AIDS virus and how it was transmitted.
“The law was created when people thought HIV/AIDS was directly related to gay men only,” Loch said.
According to the University of California, approximately 14,262 people have been diagnosed with AIDS as a result of contaminated blood transfusions. In the U.S., nearly all of these cases were due to blood transfusions before 1985.
Mary Bucklin, a Women’s and Gender Studies professor at Northern Kentucky University, explained that the topic was a difficult issue. Bucklin had a friend who died from AIDS due to a bad transfusion.
“I don’t know how to alleviate the problem or the public’s concern,” Bucklin said. “I wish there was a way to make the public feel safe.”
She said the FDA law “promotes homophobia.”
Bucklin said that testing isn’t always accurate. If a person is newly infected with the virus, it might be months before it shows up on the test results.
“For this law to change, the perceptions of gay men will have to change,” Loch explained. “People need to let go of that outdated opinion.”
Loch said the thoughts from the ‘80s that are accepted as fact are “completely different” from science.
“The way gay people live their lives today is completely different from that outdated opinion,” Loch said. “People need to be aware that we do practice safe sex.”
Other countries are lifting bans on gay men donating blood, including the United Kingdom, which just lifted its ban in September.
“This law denies us the right to donate blood,” Loch said.”Any law that denies us a right is a law that separates us [LGBTQ community] from heterosexuals — like second-class citizens.”
NKY Equality Now will protest the Hoxworth’s next campus visit.