Can a college student from Virginia change national health policy? Well, he and his friends are trying to, and we’re thankful for that.
University of Virginia student Austin Houck, who’s a second-year majoring in computer science and politics, told The Virginian News that he and his friends are trying to fight the ban on sexually active gay and bisexual men donating blood.
The current law in the U.S. states that men who have sex with other men must wait 12 months after their last sexual encounter to donate blood. Many LGBTQ activists and celebrities have openly protested and complained about this policy.
But despite the protests and other countries lowering their timespan for blood donations, the U.S. has stuck to this 12 months rule since 2015. The FDA considered ending the ban after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting but decided there wasn’t enough scientific evidence to guarantee the safety of the blood pool. This is despite the fact that most HIV tests can detect the disease 3 months after possible infection. Some tests can even pick it up a month after.
Now, Houck and his friends have formed a 501©(4) with branches at different universities. The organization Homoglobin will advocate to eliminate the ban and to push for LGBTQ-friendly sex education in schools. In addition to the University of Virginia, the organization has chapters at Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, the College of William & Mary and West Potomac High School.
“We have an abundance of information about the amount of people growing up now who will be LGBTQ, and more information than ever about how HIV/AIDS spreads,” Houck said. “When there are policies based on misinformation and fear of a group of people, we should work to change that.”
“I have a couple of male gay friends who would like to give blood and volunteer in that way, and they’re not given the opportunity to,” said Skylar Brement, a first-year UVa student who volunteers for the organization. “As our society moves forward, there will be more gay men, and when we have blood shortages, it makes sense to get blood from anyone who can give it.”
Sources: The News Virginian