San Jose State University President Don Kassing has suspended all campus blood drives in protest of a longstanding government policy that bars gays from donating blood and called the policy discriminatory, according to a story in the San Jose Mercury News.
The Food and Drug Administration policy, in effect since the early 1980s, affects any man who has had sex with another man since 1977. The agency says it is necessary because gay men are at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and other infections that can be transmitted by transfusions.
Several groups that run blood drives, including the American Red Cross, oppose the ban and say modern blood-screening techniques make the lifetime ban unnecessary.
Larry Carr, SJSU’s associate vice president for public affairs, said the university’s decision was not a result of political pressure from advocacy groups. “It’s a position based entirely on principle. President Kassing stood up for our nondiscrimination policy,” Carr said, according to the newspaper.
Kassing’s order, which takes effect immediately, applies to employee- and student group-arranged blood drives. At least two blood drives that were planned for the spring have been canceled.
Blood banks have blasted Kassing’s decision, saying it could lead to a steep drop in blood donations in the area and put patients’ lives at risk.
Kassing said he recognizes the importance of giving blood. “However,” he said in an e-mail sent to the SJSU community, “lacking further action by the FDA, we are guided by the clear mandates of our nondiscrimination policy. Our hope is that the FDA will revisit its … policy in a timely manner and we may soon be able to hold blood drives on this campus again.”
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