By Dr. Gail Barouh
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that June 14, 2012 is World Blood Donor Day, and there are events world wide to celebrate and raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products. The theme of the day is “Every blood donor is a hero,” which aids to thank unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood and focuses on the idea that every one of us can become a hero by giving blood. But current federal policy bans gay men from donating blood, preventing them from becoming the heroes they may want to be. This ban dates from the height of the HIV/AIDS Crisis in the ‘80’s. HIV detection and procedures for screening donated blood have improved greatly and blood shortages are an ongoing issue. The ability of high-risk heterosexuals to give blood makes the life long MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) ban bias and discriminatory, perpetuating stereotypes and stigma and doesn’t make the blood supply any safer. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advisory committee has deemed that the ban is “suboptimal,” and is based on outdated science. The dept. recently decided to launch a study to assess alternative criteria.
For many years the blood supply has been tested for blood borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis. This helps keep the blood supply clean. If your blood tests positive for these diseases, donation centers like those operated by America’s Blood Centers (ABC) and the American Red Cross will notify you. This is what keeps the blood supply safe, not the discriminatory screening policies that are currently in place.
However both organizations stress the fact that it is irresponsible to use them as a personal screening center. While it’s important to know your status, it’s also important to do so responsibly. This is where LIAAC can help by offering free HIV and Hep C testing. Our mobile units come to your community. You can find out when by visiting our Facebook page or calling 631-385-2469.