San Jose State Abandons Discriminatory Blood Drives

By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com February 02 2008 12:00 AM ET

California's San
Jose State University has become the first American
college to suspend all campus blood drives because of a
long-standing government policy that bars any man who
has had sex with a man from giving blood.

The U.S. Food and
Drug Administration's mandate violates the campus's
nondiscrimination policy, university president Don Kassing
said in an e-mail to faculty, staff, and students this
week. According to his letter, a university employee
brought it to his attention.

"I recognize the
importance of giving blood and we know that
universities are a significant source of blood," he wrote
earlier this week. "Our campus alone accounts for
32,000 students and 5,700 employees. However, lacking
further action by the FDA, we are guided by the clear
mandates of our nondiscrimination policy. Our hope is that
the FDA will revisit its deferral policy in a timely
manner and we may soon be able to hold blood drives on
this campus again."

The American Red
Cross and other national organizations that run blood
drives have been urging the FDA to change the policy, which
was established when AIDS first emerged in the United
States in the 1980s, arguing that modern blood
screening techniques make the lifetime ban on gay men
unnecessary.

The FDA counters
that it is necessary to take the precautions because gay
men have an increased infection rate of HIV, hepatitis B,
and other transmittable diseases, according to the
San Jose Mercury News.

"This is a
terribly misguided tactic that could have a devastating
impact on the blood supply and, therefore, patients in our
community," the Stanford Blood Center said in a statement.
"We agree that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's
lifetime ban on donations from men who have sex with
men is overly restrictive.... However, it is not
appropriate to withhold life-saving blood donations
while taking on a national health policy issue."

Around San Jose,
which is about 50 miles south of San
Francisco, have condemned the suspension, blood
banks are contending that it could lead to a
heavy drop in donations at local colleges, putting
patients' lives in danger. (The Advocate)