I walked quickly from Mr. Ryan's chemistry class to the UCI Blood Drive truck, my heart racing as the excitement of donating blood again overtook me. I was greeted by the tired looking UCI representative, who took my ID card and handed me a thick clipboard full of dull-looking paperwork.
I, like every other person on the face of this Earth, never fully read documents like these. I skim through them, checking "no" on the boxes listing various diseases, rationalizing it with the idea that I would know if I had an ailment so horrid that would prevent me from giving the red stuff. But one question struck me as odd.
"Are you a male who has had sexual contact with another male?"
You see, this question isn't asking what it really wants to ask. Not: "Have you been diagnosed with HIV?" Not: "Do you have AIDS?" It's delving into a very private sector of a person's life, insinuating all sorts of stereotypical allegations that would come from homosexual activity.
It's not 1981 anymore. The idea of AIDS as this "gay cancer" seems archaic. We have the knowledge and the tolerance to know that anyone is susceptible to AIDS. It's not just sexual contact between two men; it came come from sex between anyone, blood transfusions, dirty needles, umbilical cord blood. But if everyone has a risk of getting AIDS, why are homosexual men targeted?
Scientific statistics provide a terrifying picture of the AIDS epidemic. According to aids.gov, about 28,500 men who have had sexual contact with other males had AIDS in 2010, over half of the polled population living with the disease. According to the CDC website, 2,485 people under the age of 19 were diagnosed with HIV in 2011. And it does cost money to collect blood at big blood drives: supplies, personnel, those awesome free shirts. Excluding those with unusable blood will cut down on spending.
But with all of these advances in science and education, why are we still preventing an entire segment of the human population from doing something so simple and philanthropic as donating blood? There's no basis in discriminating based on sexual orientation alone. Those who have HIV typically understand that they can't give their blood, and they won't donate. This rule is archaic, discriminatory, and unfair. Donating blood is a wonderful experience, and no one should have to face the idea that their blood, their body, their way of life is tainted.
Equality has become a revered pillar in our society, but with all of its chips and cracks, how can we trust it to hold us up?