I've seen several impassioned messages accompanying the re-posting of this petition in support of revoking the ban. However, something struck me about these impassioned pleas to revoke the ban and "restore to gay men their dignity."
None of them - NOT ONE - made an appeal using facts. Each and every posting was geared to strike at the emotional / psychological heart of the reader. In doing a bit of digging, I realized why.
Should anyone use factual evidence to support their desire to revoke this ban, they'd come up short - severely short. The FDA regulations are incredibly clear about the risk factors present when blood from gay men is used. They didn't just decide "We think gay men have cooties so no donations from them!"
Instead, they acknowledged that gay men have an extraordinarily high rate of infection - exponentially higher than any other sampling of the population. Given there is no real test for HIV that can definitively test if someone has it or not in the early stages (called a "window period" after exposure), the gamble is simply not worth the lives of others. Even with earlier tests, it takes between 1-3 months to test positive.
In other words, the FDA believes that the need for gay men to feel validation through blood donation DOES NOT outweigh the risk they collectively present to the general population. Given that gay men make up such a tiny portion of our population, the public at large shouldn't be forced to play Russian Roulette with a transfusion simply so they can have another avenue to feel justified in their lifestyle.
We currently have enough donors who fit regulation guidelines. Why in the world would we seek to change protective regulations that were created based on solid science? These impassioned pleas for a restoration of dignity are sad.
I mean that. They make me sad.
Do sexually active gay men see their own self-worth as being found solely at the end of a syringe? Do they truly believe they hold no worth outside of their ability to strap a rubber band around their arm while squeezing a tension ball?
That's sad. That's really, really sad.
They should recognize their own self-worth through their humanity. They need no more validation than that which their humanity affords. Men do not have less dignity because they are unable to bear children just as sexually active gay men do not have less dignity because they pose a higher risk for blood donation.
A common argument in favor of repealing the ban is the fact that tainting can happen in other ways - needle sharing, heterosexual sex with infected partners, etc. Several posters posted about an episode of The Golden Girls which raised this same point.
While tainting can happen in other ways, the risk in those areas is quantifiably lower than in cases where blood from active homosexual men is used.
This has nothing to do with discrimination or lack of dignity - this has everything to do with the HIV epidemic that spread like wildfire through (and continues to ravage at an exponentially higher rate) the sexually active gay male community.
If and when our medical savvy gets to the point where we can screen more quickly and efficiently, by all means, feel free to repeal the ban. We haven't reached that point yet, so there is NO SCIENTIFIC REASON to alter the ban.
I'm sorry, but the hurt feelings of a few people (because again, contrary to what the media force feeds everyone, homosexuals make up only a tiny portion of the general population) don't justify the heartbreak their blood potentially poses to people who could just as easily rely on blood we've already amassed through approved donors.
The emotional arguments are impassioned and moving, but they simply do not stand up to logical scrutiny. This doesn't make me a bigot, this doesn't make me a homophobe, this doesn't make me heartless. I recognize the emotions of gay men who feel their status is somehow diminished by their inability to participate in a charitable activity, but I also recognize the valid reasons the FDA has for putting the ban into effect to begin with. I recognize the fear of those who rely on blood donations. In truth, the latter two trump the former.
It's not worth the risk.
And again - gay men shouldn't be basing their worth on what they can or cannot do. No one should. Everyone has inherent worth in the eyes of God. Everyone.