Sunday, July 14, 2013

Gay Marriage Wasn't The Finish Line

So gay marriage has been upheld at the Supreme Court level and what's left is to just bring the states along one-by-one. That battle's being won. Gays can serve openly in the military as well. And a ministry that once offered to cure gays of that condition has announced it will shut down. All great steps toward sexual equality.

Now meet what might be the next battlefront. Gay blood donation. (WARNING: Link goes to video that automatically activates and depicts icky icky surgery video.)

The FDA, as their current rules state, do not allow gays to donate blood. Specifically, the ban targets men who have sex with men, as the FDA considers them to be at higher risk of contracting HIV. Women are also banned if within the last 12 months they have had sex with a man who at any point since 1977 has had sex with a man (which brings bisexuals into play as well). On Friday, gays nationwide took part in what they called the National Gay Blood Drive, in which they would first get themselves tested for HIV. If it came up positive, well, that raises a whole host of other concerns, but good to find out, isn't it? If it came up negative, though, they would then go to a blood drive, get themselves rejected, and in so doing get some paperwork that they could then show off to the media along with the paperwork that showed them as testing negative for HIV. (To offset their inability to donate, they've asked straight allies to donate on their behalf.)

This came into being in 1983, right when we were first really learning about AIDS/HIV. That was five years before HIV-positive Greg Louganis dove in the Olympics with a cut on his head that he had gotten during competition. Everyone was worried about his blood infecting everyone else who used the pool, even though in reality, the virus would have been killed by the chlorine in the pool, and unless the other person had an open wound themselves, they wouldn't have needed to worry anyway because their skin would have kept the HIV from getting in. You children of the 90's out there, you remember this whole period, right? How after Magic Johnson admitted his affliction in 1991, they got us all to watch those videos in school that said things that now sound patronizingly quaint, like 'You can't get AIDS from holding hands' and 'you can't transmit AIDS at a drinking fountain'? We've gotten much more educated about the disease since then, but the ban has remained in place. In June, the AMA voted to start opposing it.

For what it's worth, according to the FDA, in 2010, 61% of all new HIV infections did in fact come from men having sex with other men. So even a switch to monitoring HIV risk factors instead of straight sexual orientation, the stated goal of the National Gay Blood Drive, would target that behavior. But organizer Ryan James Yezak noted the policies of Canada and the United Kingdom, which permit donation after abstaining for a certain length of time (5 years for Canada, 1 year for the UK, and even the 1-year restriction is under fire for not taking into account additional behaviors).

Momentum is on the side of Yezak and the LGBT movement, but we'll see how long it takes to get what they're after.

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