Cancer is defined as any malignant growth or tumor caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division. Currently, there are about 200 different types of cancer, which can affect 60 different organs in our body. Cancer does affect organs that take part in producing red blood cells, and thus may decrease the production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
In certain cases, chemotherapy is used to treat or control the cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that people with cancer who undergo chemotherapy often require blood transfusions. This is because the medications that are used in chemotherapy can decrease the blood count as well, thus creating a need for blood transfusions in order to counteract such effects. However, it is the same FDA that blocks many healthy, willing blood donors from donating blood, which is needed to help combat the negative side effects of chemotherapy.
Since 1983, the FDA has had in place a blood-donor ban on men who have slept with men, even once since 1977, based on the antiquated fear that HIV is predominately a “gay disease.” But, 30 years latter, this ban is no longer justified.
As every day passes, the medicine to treat HIV is improving and we are getting ever so much closer to achieving a vaccine. It is no longer considered a death sentence as it once used to be. Our instruments and technology have advanced in the past 30 years so that we can detect the virus within less than three months of the infection. Finally, heterosexuals, not just gay or bisexual males, can contract HIV as well at similar rates if they don’t practice safe sex in each sexual encounter, yet they don’t have such a ban.
This ban has got to end. Especially since there are even riskier activities, such as sharing intravenous drugs and prostitution, which have a one-year deferral in order to donate blood and not a lifetime ban.
Thus, a lifetime ban is no longer appropriate; a one-year deferral, though not perfect, is still a much more reasonable compromise. A one-year deferral by some estimates can introduce more than 120,000 new and willing donors to the blood pool. That is no insignificant number, given that we currently have suboptimal blood supplies.
Also, we shouldn’t be in the practice of issuing blanketed bans on blood donors, since according to one medical study, more than 12-million cases of 23 different types of invasive cancer have been recorded in the United States between 1975-2009. During the same time period, more than 360,000 cases were seen in children under age 19. With such high incidences of cancer, we could use all the healthy blood we could get, even from gay and bisexual men. Currently, there are efforts from many people that have begun a movement that is building momentum to topple this outdated policy. Thus, we call you to act: Sign the online petition at http://chn.ge/Kyplf0 and share it with your friends and family, because together we can achieve greatness and in the process save countless lives. Michael Kevin Hernández obtained a meteorology degree from Penn State University and is currently at the University of Oklahoma working on his MBA.