Bad Gay Blood?

Time to end the ban on gay men giving blood

Even though the Centers for Disease control have just recently reported that the fastest growing segment of the population to be infected with HIV are actually heterosexuals, the American Red Cross still bans gay men from donating blood. Recently, a man from Indiana was denied the opportunity based on the fact that he “looked gay.”

When Aaron Pace, a 22-year-old from Gary, Ind., went to Bio-Blood Components, a company that pays people as much as $40 per visit to give blood, he was rejected. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that during the screening process, Pace was told he would not be permitted to donate blood based on the fact that he “appears to be a homosexual.”

This is not a new phenomenon.

During the last three decades of the AIDS crisis, gay men have been banned from donating blood if they’ve had sex with another man anytime after 1977. While the decision may have been understandable in the early 1980s when gay men were the fastest growing population with the disease, when we knew little about how HIV was transmitted – and before there were tests to determine who was and wasn’t HIV positive – today, all donated blood is tested for a variety of diseases, including HIV, hepatitis and STDs.

So why is the ban still in place?

“I was humiliated and embarrassed,” Pace tells the newspaper. “It’s not right that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals can’t.” Pace claims he’s not gay.

When the debate reared its head last year in hopes that the ban may be lifted on gay men giving blood, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services voted to maintain it.

“It is unfair, outrageous and just plain stupid,” Curt Ellis tells the Sun-Times. As former director of The Aliveness Project of Northwest Indiana, he’s been educating the public about HIV for years. “The policy is based on stigma associated with HIV that existed early on,” he says. “It seems like some stigmas never die.”