22 May 2004

Still poisoned

All right, so once again the Food and Drug Administration
has engaged in fag bashing, in its own lovely clinical way.  It has disallowed gay men (more technically,
men who have had sex with men anytime in the last five years) from providing
anonymous sperm donations to sperm banks. 
This, it says, will prevent the transmission of HIV.

Now, all donors of sperm must be tested for HIV, Hepatitis B
and C, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and mad cow disease.  But gay men were the only men singled out
for outright exclusion.

I’ve written about this before.  I, as gay man who has had sex with other men, may not give
blood.  I have been tested for all of
these diseases on a regular basis, and my most recent set of tests was about
six months ago, wherein I came up completely clean on all counts.  I’ve had my hepatitis vaccines.  I’ve had sex with no one other than my
partner in that time, and he’s had sex with no one other than me.  But I still can’t give blood, because I’m
supposedly an HIV risk.

“The federal
government issued recommendations [May 20] that look like they were written in
1982, not 2004,” said Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart.
“There is absolutely nothing about this proposal that’s based on science
or medicine — this is a policy based on bigotry. It’s completely illogical to
say that a gay monogamous man who practiced safe sex four years ago cannot be a
sperm donor, but a heterosexual man who had high-risk unprotected sex 14 months
ago can donate his sperm. HIV affects every part of our nation’s population,
and the F.D.A. needs to realize that fact and stop treating gay men as the only
people who contract HIV.”

And don’t give me the statistical carping about gay men
being at higher risk for the contraction or spread of HIV and other diseases.  With the statistical, epidemiological
evidence we have seen of late, HIV is making its inroads into the
opposite-sex-having portion of the population at tremendous rates approaching
those of the initial HIV epidemic among gay men in the early to mid-1980s.  Who’s contracting HIV the fastest in our
society right now?  Black women between
15 and 35.  And where are many of them
getting the virus?  From men who are
having unprotected sex with other men “on the D.L. (down low)” and then
returning to their female partners.  If
the FDA really cared about halting the spread of HIV transmission, it’d prevent
black males and females in that age range from giving blood or sperm.  And, as a bonus, then the extent of the
government’s invidious bigotry would be exposed for all of us to see.

You have to understand, I’m not generally suspicious of the
government, especially the scientific bureaucracies when they are left alone to
do their science without ideological blinders being put onto them.  But this sort of ridiculousness and blatant,
unfounded prejudice falls way out of line.

It’s not that I want to give sperm.  But I do want the opportunity to give blood,
blood products, and to donate my organs and body upon my death.  And I’ve led no more libidinous a past than
many of my straight friends who do or intend to do these things.  And frankly, I’m a hell of a lot more
careful about sex than many of them have been – I can’t tell you how many times
I have had to remind my straight friends about these things called condoms,
spermicides, and so forth.  But because
I have sex with men rather than women, I’m out.

I may be able to get married (and it’s about time!), but
don’t think the battle’s anywhere close to being done.  We’re still going to have to fight tooth and
nail for every chance we get.  I don’t
like facile comparisons between the gay civil rights movement and the black
civil rights push of the 1940s through the ‘70s.  But on the need to have to fight like mad for every little
thing
, the comparisons seem more and more apt.

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