“It’s like hosting a party you are not invited to,” Low said.
The ban is an antiquated policy implemented in 1985 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It was a reaction to the HIV/AIDS crisis in a time when the lack of knowledge, treatments and fear and hysteria caused widespread panic and concern for the nation’s blood supply.
Science, education and technology have since made the ban unnecessary. But like many outdated government policies, it continues to exist for no apparent reason. In an era when the blood supply is consistently low, as the Red Cross and other blood banks warn, the notion that we will ignorantly ban a cross-section of our population makes no sense.
Today’s technology has made testing easy and inexpensive. One can purchase a home HIV testing kit at a local drug store and know the results within ten minutes. Furthermore, due to improved testing methods, every batch of blood donated in the US is now tested for eight different diseases, including HIV.
But let’s be frank, the current policy is related to politics more the science. If gays can be designated as a threat to health, and therefore a threat to society, some will continue to rationalize their prejudice as justified.
But Low is having none of it. The gay civil rights movement has matured to a degree that delay is denial, and activists are not willing to wait for equal rights. It is the same strategy that was implemented by Martin Luther King Jr., which brought about the major institutional changes for civil rights for African-Americans in this country.
Institutional changes are happening now for the gay community, including anti-discrimination laws, anti-hate crime legislation and gay marriage. In coming generations, people will wonder why gays had to fight to achieve basic human rights. Those who object to equality will have the same image in history as Jefferson Davis and Gov. George Wallace—being on the wrong side of history lasts forever.
As for Low, he is young, bright and ambitious. You can add courageous to that description. He is willing to speak out on issues of conscience and he will not allow even revered institutions like the Red Cross to perpetuate policies based on ignorance and fear.
He has a bright future.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.