In spite of the current blood shortage nationwide, it’s easy to be turned down when trying to donate blood. For example, donors with a tattoo or an infection must wait before becoming eligible to give.

But, under the 25-year-old rules set by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA], gay male volunteers are banned for life from giving blood.

This directive has been a point of contention at Fairfield University, as it was enforced during the American Red Cross -sponsored blood drive that took place in the Barone Campus Center Oak Room on March 11 and 12.

In place since 1983, this policy regarding what is referred to as “high-risk behavior” has come under fire several times before, but the FDA has repeatedly stated that its primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of the blood supply.

The regulation, which can be found on the FDA’s Web site , reads quite clearly: “Men who have had sex with other men, at any time since 1977 (the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as blood donors. This is because MSM [men who have sex with men] are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.”

According to the site, this is a policy subject to change pending the arrival of sufficient scientific data.

Glenn Sauer, the chair of the biology department, stated that the blood supply policy needs to be positioned on the side of caution.

“While I can’t say that I know all the reasons for determining what a high-risk group is, I can say that groups that are considered to be high-risk do need to be excluded,” said Sauer.

But such opinions do not sit well with the current president of Fairfield GLBT Alliance, Frank Fraioli ’08.

“I believe [this policy] is misinformed and bigoted,” said Fraioli. “Given that, I believe that donating blood is important because it does save the lives of so many people … I would say that efforts should be taken to change the ban so that gay men can give blood.”

One of the policy’s most well-known enforcers, the American Red Cross, also happens to be one of its opponents. The Red Cross has, in the past, recommended that donation criteria for homosexual men be changed to match other groups.

On its own Web site , the Red Cross comes out in opposition to the ban and states that “HIV can infect anyone who has sexual or blood-to-blood contact with an HIV-positive person,” and that “risk relates to what people do, not who they are.”

Donna Morrissey, the director of public relations for the Red Cross’ Connecticut Blood Region, commented on the matter to The Mirror.

“We are obligated to follow all FDA regulations and our top priority is the safety of the donor, but there is still a role for [gay men] with the Red Cross. They can volunteer to help organize and run a blood drive.”

FUSA President Hutch Williams ’08 had said that he was “shocked” upon learning of the FDA’s stance.

“The idea that, for a group of people, it’s everyone or no one is disturbing,” said Williams.

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