A Fight For Change – Homosexuals and Tissue Donation

A little over a week ago I wrote about the death of my friend Rohn. Since then, his partner Dan, his family and thousands of other people have been campaigning about an issue many people didn’t know about – the fact that homosexual men are automatically excluded from donating tissue or corneas by government mandates.

There’s been televised news reports, endless online discussion, and the controversial story has been picked up by news outlets all over the world. Dan’s Facebook has been flooded with support and people posting links to stories in the UK and all over America about Rohn. Some of them are written with confusing language, some don’t get all the info straight, and I’m still working to make sense of it all myself.

Hell, I'd take parts of his body.
Hell, I’d take parts of his body.

The way I understand the law is that homosexuals are not automatically barred from vital organ donations that would save lives. Rohn wasn’t eligible due to dying from a heart attack. Still, his completely healthy tissue, corneas and other related parts were automatically excluded due to homosexuality. The CDC states “‘men who have had sex with another man in the preceding 5 years’ should be excluded ‘regardless of their HIV antibody test results.'”

This law was upheld by the CORE office in Pittsburgh who, after a 20 minute questioning session about Rohn’s lifestyle, concluded by asking if he was a homosexual, thus ending the interrogation and the possibility of him being a donor. Rohn had also hosted a CORE fundraiser about 5 months ago, raising them a good sum of money, completely oblivious they would not fulfill his last wishes when the time came.

Legions of people are working to get this mandate changed, and Dan is determined to take it to the Federal level, calling the mandate “outdated, biased, and personally offensive.” It’s also been uncovered that this clause is not something CORE informs registrants about, as other homosexuals in the community who are also registered with CORE have only learned about this restriction because of this case. It has brought about a movement to repeal this outdated law, which has been in place since the early 1980s at the height of the AIDS scare.

All blood and tissue is tested for HIV and other diseases when donated. The tests are not 100%, and the CDC and FDA use that fact to exclude homosexuals from donation. This is a biased decision that implies only homosexuals can carry HIV. If the test is not 100% accurate for homosexuals, it’s not 100% accurate for anyone. Last I checked, a straight man who sleeps with 20 different woman a year would have a better likelihood of having HIV than a homosexual who has been in a monogamous relationship for 8 years, such as the case of Dan and Rohn, but that straight man wouldn’t be automatically excluded.

It doesn’t matter whether you support homosexuality or understand it. I have had countless gay friends over the past decade. I love Dan and was proud to know Rohn. Do I personally “get” being gay? No. Does that matter to me whatsoever? Not in the least. I saw many parallels in the relationship Dan and Rohn had to the one I have with my own wife, and found them to be one of the greatest couples I knew. Their relationship was every bit as valuable as any other, and this rule needs to go. Instant government-mandated discrimination of entire groups of people is something that just doesn’t make sense.

It’s not a gay issue. It’s a human rights issue. There’s over 120,000 people on waiting lists for transplants, and we’re throwing perfectly healthy body parts in the trash.

Dan famously dislikes being told “no” and will spend the rest of his days fighting for this to change, but you can do your part by signing their petition at change.org to let the FDA and CORE know how you feel.

Check out Dan’s Facebook for lots of videos about the issue and to keep informed with his political crusade, and to see lots of inspiring stories about donation from outraged people. According to a video posted 22 hours ago, he’s scheduled to call in to the daytime show The Doctors and discuss the issue, which will air in May.

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