A Gary, Indiana man was prevented from donating blood because he appears to be a homosexual, even though he maintained that he is straight.
I was humiliated and embarrassed, said 22-year old Aaron Pace. It's not right that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals can't. And I'm not even a homosexual.
Pace's rejection reflected the tenacity of a ban on gay men donating blood that some say is discriminatory and outdated. In 1983, it became federal policy to bar men who had had sex with other men from donating blood, citing concerns that HIV/AIDS was prevalent in the gay population. But advancements in blood testing and the gradual realization that HIV/AIDS is not unique to the gay community render that policy obsolete, gay rights advocates, the American Red cross and some lawmakers say.
It is unfair, outrageous and just plain stupid, Curt Ellis, former director of The Aliveness Project of Northwest Indiana, told the Chicago 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.
The policy persists even as research continues to discredit the stigma of HIV as a gay disease. A recent study undcercut this belief by by finding that factors such as poverty and lack of education, rather than sexual orientation, were the predominant predictors of HIV/AIDS rates. The same study found that the American south, rather than urban enclaves, registers the highest rates of infection.
While we are disappointed with the committee's decision, our organization is obligated by law to follow the guidelines set forth by the FDA regarding donor eligibility, said Karen Kelley, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross.