LGBTQ advocates at Stony Brook are raising questions over a stipulation in the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation to lift a lifetime ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.
The FDA’s recommendation to impose a 12-month ban on men who have had sex with another man has made some LGBTQ students upset because many still consider it an act of blatant discrimination.
“Preventing men who [had] sex with men from donating if they’ve had sexual contact with their monogamous partners within a year is certainly not a policy that I am happy about,” Tyler Morrison, Stony Brook alumus and founder of the Blood Donor Equality Movement on campus, said.
However, Morrison stressed that the lift on the lifetime ban is a step in the right direction and “a reason for hope.”
Morrison and three other Stony Brook University students, Michael Duffy, Jamie Leonard and Tobin George, formed the movement in spring of 2013. Their original goal was to raise national awareness on the FDA’s lifetime ban and, in turn, pressure the FDA and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, to revise the policy.
The group held a blood equality panel in November 2013 at the Wang Center Theater.
The movement has been inactive as of this past semester but Morrison said he will offer guidance and “pass the torch” to any “socially conscious” students who are willing to take on the challenge for further policy change. The changes would either eliminate the 12-month ban or encourage the prevention on blood donations from people who practice unsafe sex regardless of their sexual orientation.
David Kilmnick, Ph.D, Stony Brook alum and CEO of Long Island GLBT Service Network, called for the elimination of the 12-month ban not only because of its discriminatory nature but also the lack of scientific support.
“All blood donations are tested regardless of gender, race or nationality because HIV doesn’t discriminate,” Kilmnick said. “It affects everyone. The policy is not based on science but of fear.”
According to Kilmnick, every donor goes through the same blood testing, so the 12-month ban not only discriminates but also reinforces the HIV stigma with gay men. The only way to identify a donor’s sexual preference and sexual history is through an interview process with a nurse as a part of the Donor Registration Questionnaire.
While a gay man who practiced safe sex can bypass the 12-month ban by posing as a heterosexual man in the Donor Registration Questionnaire, Kilmnick pointed out a social issue that has long plagued the gay community.
“Anyone can lie or hide their gender but it’s not the right way because that would suggest people must stay in the closet in order to help others,” Kilmnick said. “Should we promote lies or openness against gender inequality?”
To Kilmnick, discrimination is not acceptable even for an hour, a day, a week or a month.
John Martin, assistant director of the LGBTA Services at the Center for Prevention and Outreach, shared a similar stance while he considered the lift of the lifetime ban a step of progress, he said it is not “far enough” because to ask a potential donor to wait 12 months to be eligible is simply “impossible.”