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FDA Possibly lifting ban on gay blood donors - Printable Version

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FDA Possibly lifting ban on gay blood donors - Jeeter - 06-13-2016

I saw this earlier.  Apparently with the massacre in Orlando, there's renewed calls to allow actively gay men to donate blood.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117970

Quote:Ban on Gay Blood Donors May End


A federal panel is considering overturning a ban on blood bank donations by gay men — a rule implemented 15 years ago out of fear of AIDS.

The 1985 ban declares that any man who has had sex with another man even once since 1977 cannot give blood. Now, blood bank officials say it’s time to change the rule, and the Federal Drug Administration’s Blood Products Advisory Committee is meeting today and Friday to discuss it.

“The FDA’s finally responding to the science,” says Debra Kessler, director of regional services at the New York Blood Center, the nation’s largest blood bank.

The FDA had no official comment on the possible change. Agency officials say they have reviewed the policy every few years and that their priority was the safety of the blood supply.

Any change in the policy would be implemented come months from now, if at all, says Kessler.

Science or Discrimination?

Under the current rule, a heterosexual woman who has had sex with numerous AIDS-infected partners can give blood after waiting a year, but a gay man who’s been celibate since 1978 is banned. Gay activists say that’s discrimination.
That doesn't sound right.  Neither should be able to give blood, pending extensive testing.
Quote:“The existing policy is archaic and discriminatory because it falsely assumes that all gay men are HIV-positive regardless of their sexual behavior. At the same time, it allows heterosexuals to donate blood even if they have participated in risky sexual or drug-use behavior,” says Martin Algaze, spokesman for Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

Safety of the blood supply is the first priority, agrees Doni Gewirtzman of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, a legal-aid organization for gay people and people with AIDS. He suggests the current restrictions may be too tight on gays and too loose on promiscuous heterosexuals.

“Everyone is equally at risk for HIV infection. It’s about specific sexual behavior, not about sexual orientation,” says Tom Duane, a Democratic New York state senator who is both openly gay and HIV-positive.
My understanding is that gay men are at a much higher risk for contracting HIV and other STDs.  But on that note, is it too lenient on heterosexual behavior?
Quote:Blood bank officials say AIDS-detection technology has vastly improved since the 1980s. Back then, tests only checked for antibodies to the virus. Now they check for parts of the virus itself.

But that doesn’t reassure Mary Romo, a blood donor in San Francisco. She doesn’t want the ban on donations from gay men lifted.

“I’m not favorable toward it at all. I don’t think many people would want to receive from the blood banks. They would want private donations instead,” she says.

Old Worries, New Fears

When the ban was enacted, “there was a great deal of anxiety and there was a lot of public concern, and we didn’t know very much [about AIDS] at the time,” says Herbert Perkins, who ran the Blood Centers of the Pacific in San Francisco back then.

Now, Kessler says, political problems, not scientific ones, are the major barrier.

“It’s mostly one of perception, not science. It’s not just gay men, but it’s also people who have used IV drugs, and prostitutes” who are under lifelong bans, she says.

The blood banks say they need the extra blood. A shortage in the New York area has reached “crisis proportions” and the bank has cut back on shipments, according to New York Blood Center President Robert Jones.

“Unless there is an immediate and dramatic donation increase, these reduced shipments will continue or grow worse,” he said in a statement.

Five-Year Wait

The FDA is most likely to shift to a policy under which a gay man must have abstained from homosexual sex for five years before donating blood, Kessler says.

The agency is being conservative because it’s worried about blood banking errors — units of infected blood that slip through the cracks because of human error at blood banks. Banking errors were considered the “most significant risk” of changing the policy in 1997, Dr. Andrew Dayton says in a presentation prepared for the FDA meeting.

Dayton says changing to a five-year celibacy policy will result in more than 62,000 new men donating blood. Less than one unit of HIV-positive blood per year would escape into the blood supply.
Just one?  Well, alrighty then! Russian roulette for trauma victims.  On that note, I used to donate blood regularly.  I tried donating blood 2 years ago, and was told I couldn't because 1) I came in contact with blood while providing 1st aid 7 years prior, and 2) because I was in England for 3 weeks in 1988, when I was 12.  This latter reason had something to do with Mad Cow disease.  Wrap your minds around that one for a moment: a person can't donate blood because of where they visited 26 years ago, but can despite having multiple sexual partners 13 months ago, hetero or homosexual.  There's some goofy blood donating rules.
Quote:A one-year celibacy policy would generate 112,000 new donors and up to three units of HIV-infected blood, Dayton says.

“Most gay men want to do their duty and be able to give blood,” says Duane.
If I or someone I love needs blood, I don't care where that blood came from.  I just want it to be safe.  Opening the floodgates to risky behaviors to appease the politically correct crowd doesn't seem like something that will end well.  And how are they getting these numbers about "only 3 units?"  Sounds like voodoo math to me...
Quote:Last year, the Blood Centers of the Pacific in San Francisco collected 100,000 units of blood. Three tested positive for AIDS.

ABC affiliate KGO in San Francisco contributed to this story.

Anyone here more knowledgeable about blood donation?  I'd be interested to hear their take on this.


Re: FDA Possibly lifting ban on gay blood donors - In His Love - 06-13-2016

Will they also be lifting bans on drug addicts? This is insane. It's not bigoted to say that actively gay people may have some sort of illness that can be passed on through the blood, like HIV/AIDS. Sheesh.


Re: FDA Possibly lifting ban on gay blood donors - Fontevrault - 06-13-2016

Wait . . .  I'm not allowed to donate because of my long term residence in Europe and possible mad cow exposure but men who have a proven higher risk of contracting virtually every STD out there should be allowed?!?  >:(


Re: FDA Possibly lifting ban on gay blood donors - Pilgrim - 06-13-2016

(06-13-2016, 09:29 AM)Fontevrault Wrote: Wait . . .  I'm not allowed to donate because of my long term residence in Europe and possible mad cow exposure but men who have a proven higher risk of contracting virtually every STD out there should be allowed?!?  >:(

It's a brave new world out there...


Re: FDA Possibly lifting ban on gay blood donors - Zubr - 06-13-2016

Different country, not a donor but I used to receive blood transfusions.  Not so much now because they've found a good mix of medications that work well for my lack of blood making abilities.  :LOL:

Canada lifted the ban on gay men giving blood too but they must be abstinent for 5 years before they can donate.  People I know that are social justice warriors, but don't know I've received blood or have never received it themselves, naturally think the regulations against gay men are still too discriminatory.  It's another case where the crusade for rights for some people takes precedent over the overall well-being of those actually affected.  The blood services are just so desperate for blood to keep supply levels where they need to be too.  Now, I am not saying that the testing to ensure blood products are safe isn't rigorous but mistakes happen.  If you accept blood from a demographic that is statistically more linked to certain diseases, you are increasing the chance for mistakes to pass through your system or now require even further testing somehow.  That said, this isn't just a question of the lifestyles of homosexual men but people in general; we know people are slinging penis without a second thought now.  Problem is that the majority of the population doesn't want to hear they aren't living morally and people don't want to be accused of discrimination.

But, at what cost?

There's general discussion, in the U.S. and Canada, that the blood supply is not as squeaky clean as they want us to believe.  They recall blood products.  I admit I am a bit of a worry wort but you do have some kind of anxiety about receiving blood in the first place.  If you have anxieties, it depends on who is your nurse for the day, or your doctor, how well you can explain your fears.  It varies from the compassionate answer that the blood supply is safe to the more snarky, "You want to feel better or live, don't you?"  You feel you can't really voice your concerns anymore.  So, if I raised concerns to bureaucrats, or anyone in general, that I am concerned about such decisions to include everyone in donating blood, you are accused of a lack of understanding of science and discrimination.  But, who will suffer if a mistake is made?  Not the SJW's, not their organizers or someone in government making the decisions.  Rather, just people that are already ill, at a disadvantage or need blood in an emergency.

In a perfect world, I wish people never needed to receive blood in this way.  In a second best world, I would prefer if people were more responsible overall with their bodies.  Extending from that, blood services really have a good look at their policies.  I think the chance is higher for STDs in certain demographics than a European having Mad Cow.


Re: FDA Possibly lifting ban on gay blood donors - Pilgrim - 06-13-2016

Does anyone know why blood donors are so hard to find?  It seems to me that this is a marvelous way to serve one's community.


Re: FDA Possibly lifting ban on gay blood donors - Zubr - 06-13-2016

(06-13-2016, 11:09 AM)Pilgrim Wrote: Does anyone know why blood donors are so hard to find?  It seems to me that this is a marvelous way to serve one's community.

Call me a curmudgeon but I think it comes down to they just don't really care.  Look at what happened this weekend in Florida; all the people that went out to donate and the blood services were just inundated.  There are obviously capable people out there willing to keep supply levels adequate!  People only go out to do things if their hearts are touched (as they should be in such a terrible, horrific situation) or if they want to feel as a part of something bigger.  The same people hardly think about the average everyday person, suffering from cancers, chronic disease anemia or unexpected trauma, because it doesn't cross their mind.  I guess it isn't as sexy or altruistic.  On an ordinary day when there are blood drives, there are hardly the same amount of people that show up.  I hate being so miserable about it but it makes me snarky.  :LOL:

It's like when the owner of the Ottawa Senators needed a liver donation.  People rushed to be tested and there were actually more than one match.  When asked if they would donate to someone else, a large portion said no, they weren't interested.  Just shows how we value some and not others.