Lives left unsaved

The past few weeks, Student Council has had a table set up in the cafe, urging students to sign up for the blood drive put on by the American Red Cross. And while many students did sign up with the hope of donating and saving a few lives, some students were unable to. For some, it was because their iron was too low, they didn’t meet the weight qualifications, or they had been in the wrong place of the world at the wrong time. For others, it was because of something as simple as sexual orientation.

Although the Red Cross does many wonderful things, helping to save lives and make changes for the better, there is one place in which they lack. And that’s their policy toward members of the gay community. Specifically, gay males. Within the binders present at the blood drive, there was a list of reasons why one wouldn’t be able to donate blood. There, in bold letters, it clearly said, “DO NOT DONATE IF YOU: Are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977.” Other things listed included the use of ‘street drugs’ via a shared needle, being HIV positive, being a prostitute or previously employed as a prostitute, and a few others. Some of these are understandable — obviously if you already have some disease that can be transmitted through bodily fluid you wouldn’t want to give that to someone else through a transfusion — however, the one against gay males is completely ridiculous and quite frankly, outdated.

According to Ms. LaChanel Scott, the supervisor of the blood drive, for each unit of blood given, there are three lives possibly saved. One for the plasma, one for the white blood cells, and one for the red blood cells. After the blood drive, all of the units of blood are sent over to the lab in order to be processed and screened for any diseases or defects that could harm a possible recipient. As long as the blood passes the tests, it is sent to a hospital to be used. If the blood is not successful in passing all of the tests, the donor is notified and the unit is discarded.

Although the Red Cross is able to store the blood in their coolers for up to 42 days, Ms. Scott said that this is near unheard of. The blood is in such demand that it rarely lasts more than a week before being used, and there are even shortages.

For this very reason, it remains to confuse me as to why the Red Cross hasn’t revisited their policy of not allowing gay men to donate. If all blood must be screened anyway, why not up the chance to save even more lives by giving healthy adults the chance to donate, gay or not? If the Red Cross is literally running out of blood, why wouldn’t they jump at the chance to get as much of it as they possibly can?

Although this rule may have made sense in the time that it was started — when the AIDS virus was running rampant through the gay community and blood transfusions weren’t checked as well, resulting in the spread of the disease in that way — the AIDS epidemic happened long enough ago that those who would have been affected by it already are aware, and won’t be attempting to donate blood anytime soon. Also, the majority of people who actually have AIDS in today’s day and age are not in the gay community. Those who suffer from HIV now, are those who share needles for ‘do it yourself’ tattoo jobs, recreational drugs that ruin your body little by little, and those who engage in sexual acts for money because they have no other choice. This is not just a problem for the gay community, it’s a problem for everyone. Regardless of sexual orientation.

Besides all of this, through the Blood Drive, Francis Howell Central managed to donate 97 units out of the 125 students that came and attempted to donate, coming fairly close to the goal of 105 set by the Red Cross. And although that’s already 291 lives saved, it could have been 294, or 297, or even 300.

The Red Cross’ policy of not allowing gay males to donate blood is outdated, and unnecessary. In order to maximize the number of lives saved, they need to reevaluate their human rights policies and get with the times.