Nurses Ask: Are Blood Donation Policies Discriminatory?

Before graduating, nursing majors are required to make a senior capstone presentation. Wednesday, Nov. 6, four students, Rachel Benson, Kayti Coffey, Ardi Hermawan, and Laura Zehr, presented “A Look at the Blood Donation Policy: Is It Discriminatory?”

The presentation began with an explanation of the current blood donation policy and how HIV/AIDs functions.

Currently the Blood Donation Policy prohibits all males who have had any sexual contact with another male since 1977 from giving blood. This is because of the increased risk of MSM – men who have sex with men – having contracted HIV. MSM have also been associated with engaging in unsafe sexual activity, increasing risk of donating contaminated blood.

Over the last several decades there have been many advancements in testing for HIV of donated blood.

The presentation was performed with this question in mind, “Are these associations of statistical increased risk discriminatory?”

The presenters provided evidence-based rationale for change. One of the points of rationale is that heterosexuals are capable of spreading HIV as well.

Options for change of policy could include analyzing any donors’ acts of risky sexual behavior rather than their sexual orientation. Risky behavior has been accepted by the medical community as having multiple partners, unprotected sex, or sex for drugs or money. These factors have statistically been found to increase the risk of contracting HIV.

Other alternative policies could include shorter deferral periods of five or one year, rather than life. Yet, shorter deferral periods would not accommodate for men who prefer to remain sexually active with other men.

Outside of the presentation, Senior Suzanne Berry said, “as long as being gay has a negative connotation in America, issues like this will not be pertinent to the general population.”

Whether or not the donations policies should change, the EMU nursing students are challenged to change the way nurses react to a deferral situation.

As a nurse, Senior Becca Pence said, “Something needs to change in the way patients are deferred, like using less discriminatory wording towards patients. I would also make sure to explain to the patient the reasons for the regulations.”

As part of the presentation, an experience of Senior Chris Parks was shared, in which Parks had been deferred because of his sexual orientation. Parks recalled a situation in which a nurse made him feel uncomfortable by not answering his questions regarding the reasoning behind his deferral from giving blood.

The general goal of the presentation was to get across that at EMU, nurses are trained to consider nursing as an application of a sacred covenant in caring for a person’s whole being.

-Ellen Roth, Web Manager


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