College blood drive canceled over exclusion of gays

BY Advocate.com Editors

May 19 2003 11:00 PM ET

Students at Southern Oregon University in Ashland say they will cancel their blood drive this term because gay men are prohibited from donating. Guidelines established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration bar males who have had a same-sex sexual encounter since 1977. Some students say that goes against the university's antidiscrimination policy and falsely labels AIDS and HIV as a gay men's disease. "I know I've been yelling about it for years," said Daniel Conner, a senior. "I'm a gay man, and I don't like being forced to lie to help people."

Amanda Guidero, a student government official, decided not to hold the planned blood drive after hearing complaints. "It took me four days to decide, and I can walk away knowing I made the right decision," Guidero said. "I do believe those students had a legitimate concern."

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men who have sex with men represent the largest proportion of new HIV infections: 42%. Next come heterosexual couples, then intravenous-drug users. Leslie Holness, medical officer for the division of blood applications for the FDA, said that although the screening process is not ideal, it is continuously reviewed. Officials are "reluctant to change present guidelines if they seem to be protective," Holness said. "You have to balance how much good you're doing with a safe blood supply with the bad feelings you're stirring in groups of people."

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