San Jose State University will no longer sponsor blood drives set up by university employees or registered student groups on campus in protest of ?a discriminatory government policy.?
SJSU President Don Kassing suspended all blood drives ?on the grounds that the U.S. Federal Drug Administration?s lifetime blood donor deferral affecting gay men violates our non-discrimination policy,? he said in an e-mail to SJSU staff.
The FDA currently has a policy stating that any man who has had sex with other men since 1977 ?the year the AIDS epidemic came to the United States ? will be deferred from donating blood. The administration created the policy in 1983 when the risk of contracting the HIV virus from a blood transfusion was first recognized.
?The policy goes back to original research that showed that homosexual males were at a higher risk for HIV than others,? said Sarah Stevermer, communications and public relations specialist for the American Red Cross.
The university?s policy on non-discrimination states ?discrimination of any kind, including ? sexual orientation is an affront to the entire university community and is strictly prohibited,? Kassing said in the e-mail to SJSU staff.
Considering the many different screenings that are used to test for diseases such as the HIV virus and Hepatitis B, the American Red Cross has recommended to the FDA that they reassess their deferral policy, Stevermer said.
According to the FDA website, the administration continues to stand by their policy, regardless of the testing that fails to detect less than one in a million HIV-infected donors.
With more than 20 million transfusions of blood, red cell concentrates, plasma or platelets every year, the FDA says even a failure rate of less than one in a million poses a significant risk.
Blood collection agencies near San Jose are not happy with Kassing?s blood drive restriction; at least four blood drives have been canceled because of it, said SJSU?s Media Relations Specialist Pat Harris.
If the University of Wisconsin ? with its campus of more than 40,000 students ? adopted the same policy as SJSU of suspending all blood drives on campus for the sake of discrimination intolerance, it would have a significant effect on blood banks.
?We get 20 percent of our blood from high schools and universities,? Stevermer said. ?If UW did that, it would have a big impact, especially since we have a blood collection agency here on campus.?
Emma Zeldin, events coordinator for the Madison Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Campus Center, thinks this is a step in the right direction.
?Sometimes you have to make drastic changes to be heard,? she said. ?And [the FDA?s deferral policy] is highly discriminatory.?
Zeldin said that nothing will change until homophobia is less rampant in the government and people are more accepting. She says this should not just target homosexual males.
?The important thing is just to acknowledge that many different kinds of people have careless sex,? Zeldin said, ?not just homosexual males.?