Lifting the ban on gay men from donating blood

A blood transfusion can be the difference between life and death. With the blood drive at MIT this week, everyone is encouraged to give blood, because it is a relatively easy and painless procedure that can have a substantial impact. However, not everyone has the opportunity to give blood.

There are many predictable restrictions on blood donation — donors are required to not have traveled to a country where malaria is prominent in the last twelve months, for instance. For men who have sex with men (MSM) the restriction on giving blood is permanent. For those who have had sex with a man since 1977, blood donation is indefinitely banned, a rule put in place in 1983 by the FDA during the height of AIDS hysteria. One protected encounter 30 years ago is sufficient to merit a lifetime bar from blood donation. Despite the fact that MSM account for less than half of new HIV cases in the U.S., only they have the unique position of permanent prohibition from giving blood. In effect, their blood is “tainted.”

In addition to stigmatizing HIV-positive people and MSM, this policy fails to address other potential sources of worry for blood donation. High-risk heterosexual activities, such as sexual contact with a commercial sex worker or HIV-positive person, result in a mere twelve-month deferral from donation. This one-year window is the same deferral for MSM in many other countries, including the United Kingdom, Brazil, Sweden, and Japan. However, even this ban is excessive and unnecessary. Some countries, like France and Italy do not bar MSM from donating at all. HIV may now be detected within months of transmission, a process that was simply impossible three decades ago. Screening technologies are advanced enough that the probability of HIV-positive blood passing through the screening process is “extremely low,” according to Dr. Michael Busch, director of the Blood Systems Research Institute. Simply put, the ban is obsolete in this day and age.

It is inarguably crucial to ensure that blood unfit for transfusions is never used in a medical procedure. But a donation ban on MSM does little but propagate prejudice and hysteria against HIV-positive people and the LGBT community, and should be lifted entirely to reflect the reality of modern medicine and society. There are many MSM who would be happy to donate blood, as there are people in dire need of it. As you donate blood this week, remember how many more lives could be saved if this anachronistic policy were kept in the history books where it belongs.

G@MIT Executive Board

A fully informed president

In regards to Mr. Edelman’s opinion piece, “Who’s in charge?” I, as a member of the rational, reasonable, and, overall, informed community would like to ask Mr. Edelman: Are you serious?

Snark aside, after reading his piece, it became clear to this reader that Edelman was nothing more than a distraught Romney supporter who could not get over the humiliating electoral defeat of the regressive and out-of-touch Republican Party who keeps pushing the false notion that incompetence resides within the White House. A notion that comes, ironically, from the same party that installed George W. Bush (need I say more?).

Opposed to what vile, right-wing propaganda might say, the informed citizen knows the past four years have shown the Obama administration to be shrewd on foreign policy: ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, opening relations with Myanmar, defeating Gaddafi without one U.S. “boot on the ground,” using modern modes of targeted warfare, changing U.S. policy as it regards to the Middle East to a sustainable, and more moral, model. This list could go on, and maybe it should for the sake of The Tech’s intrepid writer, Mr. Edelman. Yet, opposed to my instincts, I will refrain.

Not only does Mr. Edelman seem to forget the generally stellar Obama record as it relates to U.S. foreign relations, he does not seem to grasp the notion of scale, reason, or facts. While the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2012 at the U.S. outpost in Bengahzi was a tragedy and should prompt further research into how to secure our brave State Department workers, Mr. Edelman’s analysis seems to over-estimate both the United States’ functional ability to respond at a moment’s notice a well as its legal right to do so under international law. He fails to realize that the CIA was, at the onset of the attack, attempting to work with the Libyans (who had the legal obligation to defend U.S. diplomats with Libya), to garner heavy weapons and better support. And, after the Libyans refused to comply with the request, the CIA was able respond in 24 minutes. Yes, minutes, not hours (I will assume that Mr. Edelman’s mistake was due to gross negligence rather than overwhelming ineptitude). He, for some reason, does not understand that those at the top of hierarchical structures do not have clairvoyant abilities to oversee all that which is under them. And, then, after a long foray into a muddled diatribe into the Sept. 11, 2012 attack, tacks on some sort of reasoning that because an extra-marital affair occurred, that Obama has “lost control.” In the words of Senator John McCain (who recently missed a formal briefing on the recent terrorist attack in order to hold a press conference in which to complain about a lack of information about the attack (See “Benghazi inquiry sparks Hill turf battle” (Politico, Nov. 15, 2012))) “That’s one of the dumbest [suggestions] I’ve ever heard.” (See: “McCain mocks reporter for ‘one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever heard’” (The Hill, Nov. 14, 2012))

Henry Skupniewicz ’13