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QSA, Libertarian Forum Protest U.S. Blood Donation Policy

By Yen H. Pham, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: March 1, 2013, at 8:26 a.m.

Members of Harvard College Queer Students and Allies and the Harvard Libertarian Forum gathered Thursday evening to seal and send off a box filled with 1,624 letters for the Food and Drug Administration.

The letters, signed by approximately a quarter of Harvard undergraduates, protested a government policy that universally bans men who have had sex with other men from donating blood.

Over a six-week period last semester, the campaigners visited every dining hall to collect signatures and raise awareness among students.

The policy, a holdover from the era of the AIDS epidemic, effects a lifetime ban on blood donation for males who have had sex with another male since 1977.

The members of both organizations decided to start the campaign when they noticed that despite frequent blood drives at Harvard, there was little dialogue on campus about the ban, which they called “archaic,” “judgmental,” and “ineffective.”

“Students were extremely receptive, and [for] others that weren’t, we had a chance to engage with the issue, which is really valuable, too,” said Benjamin L. DeVore ’15, a former political co-chair of the QSA.

Though they acknowledged that theirs was an unusual partnership, both groups said that their interests aligned perfectly on the issue.

“We come from the standpoint that the government shouldn’t be intervening in medical affairs,” said Corinne H. Curcie ’15, president of the Libertarian Forum.

Every unit of donated blood gets tested for HIV, said Curcie, who also referred to a study by the American Medical Association that called the policy “ethically inconsistent” with the FDA’s other regulations.

The American Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks have also supported a repeal of the ban.

The letter Harvard students sent to the FDA cited the United Kingdom as an example, where replacing a similar lifetime ban with a one-year ban for men who are sexually active with other men increased blood donations by an estimated two percent.

“We just want to make it a smart policy,” De Vore said about the FDA rules.

—Staff writer Yen H. Pham can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @yhpham.

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