With the comments of presidential-elect Donald Trump and many of his supporters during the 2016 campaign calling for a temporary Muslim ban on immigrants coming to the United States “until we are sufficiently able to vet those coming here”, we are reminded of the governmental drive to attempt to convince us that if we only cede our freedom to bureaucratic oversight, things will turn out alright. However, for those who have looked at history, such assurances fall flat. From the income tax to Social Security to Obamacare (and so on), there are many examples of where the state has sold citizens on trusting how intrusive policy would be better/limited to certain groups/fully paid, and yet reality ended up being anything but.

In the wake of the horrific Orlando shooting that occurred in June, as the usual activists from both sides of the aisle got caught up in the meaningless diatribes over whether gun control or Muslim control were of importance, not much was given to the continued prejudice that hampers gay men in donating blood. Many that looked to give blood to help their friends and partners were barred from doing so, irrespective of whether they were disease free or not. Rather, such a move was simply because of their sexual orientation. This is as a result of the continued ban on gay men from the FDA that bars them from donating blood if they have had sexual relations with another man within the previous year. Despite the fact that all blood gets screened, that such individuals aren’t any more hazardous that other specific groups, or technological advancement that has made possible the quicker identification of AIDS-infected blood, the ban continues on with no signs of being rescinded anytime soon. Such policy showcases how public officials hardly give credence to scientific evidence or empirical understanding of information (the issue concerning marijuana scheduling within the Controlled Substances Act is another example of this), but are rather more entrenched within political and social tribal constraints which continue to do irreparable harm to innocent people. This can further be demonstrated in the handling of the crisis from which the FDA ban on blood donation came from: the AIDS crisis itself.

Despite the fact that more than 30 years have passed since then, the AIDS crisis remains a shadow of public significance. Millions of people across the country were found to be infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which led to low immune system efficacy. Unfortunately, many thousands of citizens died from complications that such infections brought. The conventional assurance that was given to explain why such a crisis took place usually involved the explanation that it was a consequence of “rampant sexual promiscuity” from homosexuals. This was the catalyst upon which the FDA ban was enacted in 1983, which put a permanent ban on the donating of blood by homosexual men “until it could be understood how to deal with the problem” (sound familiar?).

What is hardly ever discussed besides the sexual behavior are the governmental policies that provided the conditions for such risky behavior to take place. In the 1970s and 80s, many states across the union still penalized the occurrence of sodomy. While such legal dictates technically punished various sexual acts that didn’t lead to procreation, most of the time such laws were used to punish homosexual men. This encouraged such individuals to go underground, taking exploits on a black market of sexual activities that were more risky. This was further encouraged by cultural assumptions (which such policies basically entrenched and supported) that gay men embodied promiscuity, which no doubt was absorbed by many such individuals as their identity. Commercial sex/prostitution, then as now, are also largely illegal across the country, which also encourages such activities to go underground. As anyone who knows black market activities can understand, little to no accountability of such services is possible since such activities are considered illegal. As a result, hardly any lanes are available to people to know the safety/truthfulness of what they are receiving, (ie. knowing the health of the individuals they are having sex with for instance). Therefore, it is sadly (but not shockingly) the case that many became ill with many STDs as a result, including HIV.

As it became clear what was happening, public apparatuses began to take action. As scientists began to search for the reason for why such afflictions were taking place, the FDA put the permanent ban into action. However, despite the assurance that the ban would only be until more was understood, it remained in place. Despite studies showing that AIDS was not solely a “gay disease”, and also the result of blood transfusion, gay men were still bared from donating. Public officials didn’t take such research into account, continuing to facilitate the unknowns of how the virus could infect people. Paranoia took hold, causing many to harass homosexuals, and for some to go further and kill innocent people. Even when drugs started to be created, such alleviation still remained out of reach of many AIDS victims. Thanks to rigid regulation on the part of the FDA, and as a result of the rigorous trials that such drugs have to go through within such a process (and the fact that such trials limit who can get through with their research and drugs; after all, only bigger corporations that have more money and influence can usually undertake such endeavors), they ultimately proved to be very expensive (see other governmental institutions like NASA and how space exploration has only just started to become more pursuable thanks to recent successes by SpaceX and Blue Origin for other examples of this). The long trail processes also pushed many victims to pursue other options, even if they were illegal (until the FDA approves a drug, it is a crime to take it…so much for freedom. Only recently has this begun to be pushed back against). Then again, can anyone blame such individuals looking for alleviation anyway they can? How does this harm anyone but the patients themselves?

Even today, the bad legacies of the AIDS crisis continue to survive in the modern world. Governmental assurances of improvement still play out, public institutions continue to offer rigid regulation in how we peacefully look to live our lives as healthy and successful as we can, and pain and tragedy continue to result. Truly a shame.

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