Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion.
It’s one thing to not be able to give blood because you have an infectious disease, but in Gary, Indiana, Aaron Pace couldn’t donate blood recently not because he had HIV, hepatitis, syphilis or any other disease, but because he “looked gay.”
He is now suing that blood bank for having faulty “gaydar.”
“I was humiliated and embarrassed,” the 22-year-old told the Chicago Sun Times. “It’s not right that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals can’t. And I’m not even a homosexual.”
Pace attempted to give blood at Bio-Blood Components Inc., which pays up to $40 a visit, but the company rejected his blood, saying that he “appears to be homosexual.”
For years gay activists and lawmakers have tried to lift the 1983 FDA ban that states that if a man has sex with another man anytime during or after 1977 they are not allowed to donate blood. Today, however, all blood, no matter your sexuality, is tested before it is released to hospitals.
“It is unfair, outrageous and just plain stupid,” Curt Ellis, former director of the Aliveness Project of Northwest Indiana told the Sun Times. “The policy is based on the stigma associated with HIV that existed early on. It seems like some stigmas will just never die.”
Last year in June 2010, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services voted to not change the policy. The policy, however, could be preventing lives from being saved. Blood agencies are losing out on over 219,000 pints of blood every year because of the ban, according to the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA’s School of Law. In fact, just last month, the Northwest region of the American Red Cross issued an urgent request for blood donors.
With a record number of people being affected in over 40 recent natural disasters, the organization has expressed that the need for blood is high. Unfortunately, in May and June donations were the lowest that the organization has seen in over a dozen years.
“This has been an especially busy year for the Red Cross, as we’ve given help and hope to people affected by deadly tornadoes, floods, wildfires and other storms,” Shaun Gilmore, president of the Red Cross Biomedical Services, said in a statement. “But there’s another, more personal, kind of disaster that can happen to any of us at any time if we need blood and it’s not available.”
Blood donations from African-Americans are especially important. 51 percent of African-Americans have Type O blood; therefore, a blood donation from a Black individual has a higher chance of being a match with another Black individual with Type O blood. Type O blood is also the most often requested blood type by hospitals. Furthermore, beyond blood types A, B, or O, there are over other 600 known antigens, some of which are specific to diversity groups. For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are unique to the African-American community; therefore, patients with these blood types depend on donors from the Black community with matching blood types.
Though ineffective bans and silly reports exist of individuals not being able to donate, some people’s fate lies in whether they receive a bag of blood or not.
Individuals 17 years of age and older who meet the blood donation weight and height requirements are encouraged to give blood. Contact 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood drive and to make an appointment.
(Photo: Jan Woitas/Landov)