By Guest Contributor Austin Beltrand
The Lavender Health Alliance will be hosting a Blood Drive at the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center during Friday of 7th week (5/19). The donation center is on the A-level of Ackerman Student Union, and will be open between 9am and 3:30pm during the blood drive. Please remember to eat a healthy, low-fat meal and to increase your fluid intake prior to donation. All appointments can be reserved through phone (310-825-0888) or online (www.gotblood.ucla.edu). Just remember – saving lives only takes an hour!
The MSM Deferral Issue
In 1983, the FDA began enforcing a life-time deferral of men who have had sex (even once) with another man after 1977. This legislation cited elevated rates of HIV/AIDs infection among those who were disqualified as its primary justification despite deferring women from donating blood for only twelve months following sexual contact with persons within the excluded demographic. The absence of any rational basis for this inconsistent application strongly suggests discrimination as a primary motive behind the deferral’s creation. Due to wrongly defining the word “man” in terms of sex rather than in terms of gender, this legislation continues to exclude a broad variety of queer persons from receiving the personal and financial benefits associated with donating, even despite national blood shortages. The legislation’s categorization of fellatio as a form of sex also unduly widened its scope, since the government openly admits never having documented a case of HIV/AIDs transmission through this route.
In 2010, Australia moved from a lifetime to a 1-year deferral of men who have sex with men. This policy change failed to impact the country’s rates of accidental infection through blood and blood product transfusions despite the similar epidemiological profiles of Australia and the United States. In addition, drastic reductions in the infection prevalence among members of the demographic, growing rates of non-compliance, and the development of cheaper and more accurate testing techniques garnered the attention of governmental forces; as part of its revised recommendations of July 2015, the FDA estimated that these changing factors resulted in a decrease in accidental transmission risk from 1 in 2500 units to about 1 in 1.47 million transfusions. Five months afterwards, the FDA reacted to this evidence by following in the footsteps of Australia with its current 1-year deferral.
The Lavender Health Alliance maintains its considered judgement that this 1-year deferral fails to strike the optimal balance between safety and donation volume by excluding donations from members of the queer community. Their policy wrongly excludes donations from low-risk individuals whom facilities could easily identify through asking more questions during the screening process. Why deny donations from a man who reports no sex within the last year except for oral sex, protected sex, or monogamous sex? Therefore, the Lavender Health Alliance would appreciate your support in petitioning the FDA to assess donor risk individually through more specific screening questions, as a substitute to its blanket deferral.
What can you do to offer your support?
All persons are welcome to sign the petition. The hyper-linked google form provides an opportunity for those singing to identify their relation to UCLA or to a university organization. In addition, all organizations may endorse our campaign through a letter of support, if so desired. The event organizers will mail all of the collected materials to our state senators and other policy makers. For more ways to get involved, please see our website–www.lhabloodrive.com. You can also join our social media group for the petition in order to ask questions, invite your friends, or share the event on your facebook walls.
We encourage donations from those whom the 1-year deferral made newly eligible. Please remember to donate on the day of the blood drive and to sign-in with our code upon arrival. This document lists more information about eligibility requirements for those who are interested. If you are unable to donate, then have no fear – you can still help-out with the blood drive by registering as a volunteer for tabling.
Our volunteers will be stationed on Bruin Walk intermittently throughout week 7 and outside of the Blood and Platelet Center during the blood drive. These volunteers will assist those who are interested in registering to donate, signing the petition, or expressing their thoughts about the deferral through our photo campaign. I hope on expanding the drive or petition to other colleges in future years, as well as doubling-down on our political efforts–for example, through phoning the FDA directly, or adding to our platform fair compensation policies for UCLA faculty and staff blood donations.