Thanks to an application filed by RTI activist Chetan Kothari, it’s been revealed that the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) in India considers the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as a “high risk group” (for HIV), and therefore says that members of the community are banned from donating blood.
A similar issue was brought to light in the United States after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016. After 53 people were injured, blood banks in the area put out urgent calls for blood, and when gay people responded to the call in solidarity, discovered that men who had had sex with men in the last 12 months were prohibited from donating blood.
Doctors quoted in initial reports on this issue in India say that the ban on members of the LGBT community donating blood is in place because “they have multiple sexual partners and there is a high incidence of HIV”.
Um. Obviously members of the LGBT community aren’t the only ones who have multiple sexual partners, and as avert.org reports, “the HIV epidemic in India is driven by heterosexual sex, which accounted for 87% of new infections in 2015.” And either way, as Sambuddha Chaudhuri points out in the Huffington Post, “blood samples need to be screened for HIV and other viruses anyway before try are transfused , so setting up a check like this does little for securing extra safe blood samples.”
Which means that this ban seems, on the face of it, quite unethical, and based on decades-old stereotypes about HIV and gay people. Ideas like this only contribute to further discrimination and stereotyping around a community that already faces too much of it in the country. Plus, it’s always shocking to notice how deeply embedded these stereotypes have become in law, medicine and even seemingly neutral and unbiased “science”.