Tuesday, June 15, 2010

HHS/FDA continue MSM blood donation ban for now, but may revisit issue soon

Members of a HHS advisory committee for the FDA voted 9-6 not to lift the absolute ban on MSM blood donations, where men are excluded from donation if, when “asked”, “tell” of one event in the past 33 years. However, the FDA says more research and hearings will take place, although no time has been promised.

Cheryl Wetzstein has a most visible article on p A5, National News, of the Washington Times (of course!) today, Tuesday. June 15, link (web url) here

One of the concerns seems to be that as yet hypothetical and undiscovered dormant viruses (particularly retroviruses or other slow viruses or perhaps Hepatitis viruses like B and C) that are particularly transmissible in a “chain letter” fashion from men only could still exist. But this idea had been proposed even back in the 1980s when the blood donation ban was discussed then after an HIV test had been introduced. Even Robert Bazell of NBC had made this point. The religious right (“Dallas Doctors Against AIDS”) tried to use the “chain letter” argument in Texas to bolster the state’s sodomy law with a draconian bill in 1983, that died in committee. Part of the argument is that vaginal acts don’t easily transmit the virus from women to men (even without condoms). However, the prevalence of HIV in Africa, where women often have other STD’s increasing blood exposure to men, seems to counter that notion, even in the West HIV was for a long time particularly prevalent among gay men, although much less to relatively speaking today than before.

The blood issue is still damaging, because it provides a justification for "asking" which could be copied, and because it seems like a surrogate for a shared community obligation.

Back in 1993 I was asked at work to participate in a blood drive while working for a company that sold life insurance to the military. I felt particularly embarassed by the public self-deferral.

I happen to recall a particularly disturbing anecdote when volunteering as a "buddy" for the Oak Lawn Counseling Center in Dallas in 1985 and attending various support meetings.  Another buddy told a story of a family of a young man who had died of AIDS, and a family member scorned the buddy and scolded, "Just look at what you have done!" as by proxy. Some of the hype from the Factor clotting factor concentrate recipients in the article sounds a bit like this.

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