Roland Burris, have asked the Food and Drug Administration to lift the ban. We'll now have an outbreak of rhetoric like we years ago when we debated the right of privacy versus the common good.
The FDA instituted the ban in 1983, permanently barring any man who had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood. The policy was meant to curb the spread of HIV, hepatitis or other diseases for which [gay men] were determined to be at high risk.
The FDA's policy also permanently prohibits anyone who has received payment for sex, injected intravenous drugs or tested positive for HIV since 1977.
On its face, such a blanket ban seems unfair. Why not allow donations on an individual basis, and then test it for the HIV AIDS virus? Is this too much like "profiling" terrorists boarding airplanes?
On the other hand (not something I often say), I can understand the ban. After discovery of the AIDS epidemic, the practitioners of tradition public health had urged routine HIV testing and other standard prevention tools such as contact tracing. Privacy advocates, the gay community and the political left prevailed, and unfortunately contributed to the spread of the virus. I remember that at one time, testing of pregnant women was banned, even though that knowledge could have helped prevent the transmission of the virus from mother to child.
Unfortunately, this will again devolve into a political and ideological battle. Both sides in that battle will say that the transmission of the virus through blood transfusions have been reduced dramatically. One side will say this demonstrates that the ban is no longer needed; the other will say the ban is the reason for the reduction.
Myself, I'm in favor of doing what good science and medical practice recommends. And that's what got me in trouble 20 years ago, when I got labeled a homophobe for it. Truth is, gay men have a higher rate of infection than the general population, so it is not unreasonable to eye this demographic alertly and prescribe special precautions. What those should be, I'd leave up to good science.
AIDS, ban, blood transfusion, Dick Durbin, FDA, gay, HIV, homophobic, public health, Roland Burris, testing