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This is interesting....
blaisepascal
San Jose State University is banning on-campus blood drives because the drives discriminate against gay men.

If you aren't aware of the issue, since 1983 the FDA has required a screening question for potential donors, permanently deferring any man who has had sex with another man, even once, since 1977. That lumped gay and bisexual men into the same category as prostitutes, intravenous drug users, and hemophiliacs as high-risk to the blood pool.

In 1983, AIDS was known to be a relatively new blood-borne disease with a long incubation period. It was discovered in the male gay community which at the time was rife with unprotected sex[1]. HIV was discovered in May 1983 and was confirmed as being responsible for AIDS in 1985. So there was no way of detecting who was infected but asymptomatic, no clear knowledge of how spread it was, and no knowledge of how long it took to get sick. Eliminating a major known risk group based on the only known risk factor was probably reasonable.

Things are different now. We know about HIV; we have good, accurate, fast tests for it -- in fact, blood is routinely tested for HIV regardless of donor; Gay culture has, mostly, embraced the need for "safer sex"; and societal attitudes towards gays has changed as well. But the prohibition against gay and bisexual men donating blood remains, and is viewed by the FDA as still the best way to protect the blood supply.

Apparently only the FDA still holds that position in the US. The Red Cross has asked the FDA to review and revise that rule (the FDA claims to have reviewed it 4 times, and still comes to the same conclusion). Many gay-rights organizations have protested, have demonstrated, etc, all to no avail. The FDA has been unmoved by the argument that there are plenty of healthy men disqualified by the prohibition who would be willing to donate blood, and thus increase the healthy blood supply.

This tactic, of denying blood-drives space on campus because of the anti-discrimination policies of the school, has decided pluses and minuses. Chief among the minuses is the clear threat to the blood supply, as college kids donate 15-20% of the donated blood. It's uncertain if other campuses will follow suit. On the other hand, such a threat to the blood supply might be what is necessary for the FDA to eliminate or modify the restriction. It will certainly throw more light on the issue.

[1] The attitude at the time was that pregnancy wasn't an issue and the major STDs (syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea) were all treatable. So why bother with condoms and the like?

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response to the last sentence HSV, HPV

I've not seen any evidence that the gay male community in the early 80's were particularly worried about either virus. That's not to say that HSV and HPV shouldn't have been of concern, but that I don't they they were.

This is the best news of the day so far (until I get my Perl script working to fix the AID DB, that is).

Hopefully this threat will spread and get the FDA off of its dumb, discriminitory ass. There are hundreds of thousands of men who have sex with men all the time, they just don't admit it to anyone, including themselves, so this screening has been useless from the start, and I have no respect for the intelligence of the agency that simply refuses to see that.

What is scaring the FDA here is the window period between the time of infection and the time it takes the body to build up enough levels of virus or viral antigens that current laboratory tests can detect positive HIV levels. This can take up to two weeks, if I remember correctly.

Having said that, I personally think the ban is the cheap (money wise, not resource wise) way to screen patients. It costs far less money to ask people questions off a sheet of paper and weed potential positives out than it does to do a Western blot and weed true positives out. On the other hand, it's not like they don't test everything that comes through anyway.

The problem with this approach is that we're NOT asking the questions that would accurately gauge risk. We don't ask about safer sex practices, for example, or number of partners, or how well you know your partners. We're not asking whether you have sex drunk or high or otherwise impaired.

So we're falsely assuming that being heterosexual means that you are not at risk for HIV, which is malawkey. For example, a gay man in a monogamous relationship who has tested negative for HIV is barred from donating blood, although they're not a risk. A straight person who is having unprotected sex with unknown partners is treated as though they're low risk, which they're not.

I don't like this policy, not one little bit. I still donate blood because the need is so high. The Red Cross is right -- the need is FAR greater than the risk. This is a prohibition based on bigotry, not science.

The blood services are not happy with the FDA in general. I was permanently deferred a few years ago because I gave blood while (unbeknownst to me) I was percolating an upper respiratory infection. That infection caused a positive reaction in one of their screening tests, and an indeterminate reaction in another, so I can no longer donate blood. I have had full blood testing since then, more than once, and had no alarms bells go off, but because I had one false positive, I cannot donate until the FDA changes the rules. And I have O negative, with other very desirable factors, and I used to get calls for emergency donations because O neg is in such demand.
I believe that females who have had sex with a man who has had sex with another man (even once) are also permanently deferred, irrespective of the circumstances.

Can't speak for other state, but in NY, all donated blood, I repeat, ALL donated blood, is screened for HIV. This prohibition is pointless and bigoted at this point.

Agreed! (BTW, were you in upstate New York recently after a long sojourn in China? The icon looks familiar.)

yes, he was there this weekend. I know 'cuz I saw him there!

Have they eliminated the (last I heard) 2-3% false negative rate on the first-level tests?

RE women who've had sex with men who've had sex with men: that used to be a permanent deferral, it's now a one-year deferral (not sure when the policy changed.)

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