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Davis, California

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Blood drive controversy

The year was 1977.

It was the middle of the Cold War. Jimmy Carter was President. Star Wars hit theaters for the first time. Elvis Presley performed his last concert.

Much has changed since then.

Unfortunately, blood donor guidelines are still living in the past from when the AIDS scare was relegated to those men who have had sex with another man (MSM).

Since 1977, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated that those who have had MSM contact are not eligible to donate blood for life.

People who donate blood constitute a small percentage of the population. Donors are a self-selecting group.

According to the FDA, this exclusion has nothing to do with sexual orientation. The ruling was made because of MSM behaviors, such as anal and oral sex. These behaviors aren’t exclusive to people who have had MSM sex.

No data, however, exists showing that these acts increase the likelihood of a sexually transmitted disease. BloodSource, a Northern California blood bank that conducts many of UC Davis’ on-campus drives, is working with the state as well as the federal government to secure funding to address this concern scientifically. It’s unlikely that it will find anything that hasn’t already been uncovered in the past 32 years.

Additionally, all blood donations are tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and the human T-lymphotropic virus. Rather than rule out potential donors simply because of their sexual behavior, why not test their blood for these diseases, too?

On May 6, The Daily Californian reported that UC Berkeley’s ASUC senate passed a bill labeling the current FDA guidelines as “discriminatory.” ASUC funds will no longer be permitted to go toward blood drives.

While this decision makes a statement, it doesn’t solve any problems.

The issue is that the MSM population isn’t allowed to donate blood due to the FDA’s current guidelines. The idea is to make more people eligible for donation; having no one donate blood is the worst possible outcome.

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