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Banned from Saving Lives?
Story Number is : 110812101
By Alison Lazzaro
Hospital Newspaper

We hear it all the time. Ad campaigns and incentives to donate blood seem to be following us, especially in the winter months. Donating blood saves lives and is a rewarding experience when you know you are helping someone in need. Whether for a leukemic patient, hemophiliac, or victim of a motor vehicle crash, blood is needed at a faster rate than people are able to donate. Knowing this information, why has the United States government prohibited a group of people from saving lives since 1983?

The United States is supposed to be a melting pot of people, free of discrimination. Yet, to this day, gay men are banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from donating blood. This may have been justifiable during the height of the AIDS epidemic because of the high risk of HIV transmission by men who have sex with men. Blood testing has gone a long way since the 1970s. Gay men in a monogamous relationship who have been tested for HIV cannot donate blood by U.S. law. Meanwhile, it is perfectly
acceptable for a heterosexual individual with extremely risky sexual behavior to donate blood, no questions asked. The idea of banning a group of people from donating blood who have no history of HIV seems ridiculous. Why not alleviate the shortage of blood and stop the discrimination?

Although the Senate has revisited the issue of the ban, there has not been progress about overturning the issue thus far in the United States. The F.D.A. routinely screens blood for HIV and infectious diseases to ensure that safeguards are in place to keep blood from becoming contaminated. The Senate should take time to reexamine the issue since more sensitive tests have been developed since the time of the ban and blood shortages continue.

Nursing students who readily hold blood drives at their college campuses should be proactive about trying to change this ban. By informing other students, writing to your congressmen, and taking a stance, nursing students can be at the forefront of change.
We are entering the profession with the goal of helping people. Why not start by reversing the ban and allowing gay men to donate blood to help save a life.

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