December 1, 2009

Mixed Blood

Screenings, tests, questionnaires, we’ve all been subject to the selecting process in some way, shape, or form; at times we find ourselves included on the right side of the metaphoric fence, and at others we are left out in the cold with the rest of the garbage. Rejection is never a positive experience (one would think), but we assume that we were not chosen because of our lacking merit, and in a justly manner, no less. For it must be true, obviously, that the standards and reasoning behind these selections were valid and without bias, right?

The world has never been short of its bigoted, excluding parties, and today is no different.

For most individuals who pop into Duke’s American Red Cross Blood Drive Donation Reception Area (sounds so much more official than just saying Von Canon, doesn’t it?), question 34 of the screening questionnaire is just another negligent hurdle to jump before you can claim your cookie and juice box. For others, however, including yours truly, it is a moral crossroads. Answer “no” and you walk free, most likely to the end, nonetheless affected save for that bruise on your arm from the volunteer continuously missing your vein (c’mon, seriously). But answer “yes”, and you find yourself forever banned, your name on a list of individuals deemed too risky to give.

The question in question (hehe, puns) is as follows: “From 1977 to the present, have you had sexual contact with another male, even once?” Now for me, the most insulting aspect of this question is not that it dares to equate my sexual activity unfit for the donor room, but the “even once” additive. As if we’re cheating members of Weight Watchers packing the Oreo filling between two cookies and calling it one serving. Oh, hell, it was just once, it won’t count, right? Quite frankly, those two small words insult the integrity and intelligence of the person in question (hehe, more puns) in what is already a discriminate and unfair topic to discuss.

Recently, The Advocate posted an article in their October issue concerning the battle of the lifelong ban of gay men by the FDA, detailing the origin of the ban, its supporters, its critics, and the measures taken. Basically, the ban came about amidst the HIV/AIDS scare and was taken as an extreme preventative measure that has, clearly, outstayed its welcome. Nowhere does the questionnaire screen heterosexual couples for their promiscuity, nor does it offer as severe a punishment for other “questionable” behaviors. In fact, many of the organizations that hold these blood drives (the American Red Cross included) are advocating that the FDA rethink its policy. As of yet, the administration is unyielding, yet Obama’s newest appointments promise at least a potential screening, giving the questionnaire a taste of its own medicine.

Again I cop out, Dear Reader, and leave the discussion up to you, but here are some facts to consider as you fill the comments box *cough cough*:

· Unprotected anal intercourse presents the highest risk due to the propensity for the rectal tissue to tear, permitting an access for infected blood and semen
· Other behavioral risk factors result in a 12-month deferral from donating versus the lifelong ban of MSM contact, a revision many are considering for #34—though I don’t see HOW they expect anyone to wait a year
· 15% of HIV infection is through anal intercourse, while 60% is through vaginal, according to the World Health Organization

So there you have it: now have at it!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this. I'm a straight female, but the first time I gave blood I was offended by that question. I asked my mom about it, who is pretty liberal like me and very intelligent, but even her perspective was still influenced by the AIDS scare propoganda all these years later. Not to mention, if anal intercourse is the "issue" (which is quesitonable in itself), aren't I, a straight female also a risk? Afterall, anal sex is a practice of straight folk as well. Everytime I give blood I pause at that question. It really infurirates me.