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August 5, 2013 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Senators Mike Quigley, Tammy Baldwin, Mike Enzi, Elizabeth Warren, Barbara Lee, along with thirteen other senators and 64 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter last Thursday asking the Department of Health and Human Services asking for an end to the ban on blood donation of all gay men who have had sex with other men since 1977.

Request for Information (RFI) on Design of a Pilot Operational Study To Assess Alternative Blood Donor Deferral Criteria for Men Who Have Had Sex With Other Men (MSM) (announcement) and comments
posted by roomthreeseventeen (24 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Barbara Lee is a representative. Carry on.
posted by psoas at 9:01 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Argh. I suck. Sorry.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:02 AM on August 5, 2013


/me crosses fingers.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 9:04 AM on August 5, 2013


It's about time. This has always seemed like a reactionary rule and one which doesn't recognize the danger of untreated AIDs in the heterosexual and lesbian communities. Saving lives shouldn't be a political football.

Also if this gets the Red Cross to stop phoning me every day for drops of my precious, precious universal donor blood, I am 1000% for this, seriously, I only have one set of veins I'm sorry!!
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:05 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Enzi was the only Republican to sign the letter.

Sigh...
posted by zombieflanders at 9:11 AM on August 5, 2013


oh i am so glad this is at least on the table! i always struggle with "lie and donate" or "tell the truth and don't donate."
posted by nadawi at 9:15 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


also, i'm glad they went with "men having sex with men" and explicitly mentioned both gay and bisexual men.the current rules cast an even larger (utterly unnecessary) net than a lot of people think about.
posted by nadawi at 9:17 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also if this gets the Red Cross to stop phoning me every day for drops of my precious, precious universal donor blood, I am 1000% for this, seriously, I only have one set of veins I'm sorry!!

Heh. They call me constantly, too, even though I've told them numerous times to take me off their call list, I'm now forbidden from giving blood. (Lived in Germany in the 80's for a year and a half. That has recently become a bannable offense.)
posted by MissySedai at 9:19 AM on August 5, 2013


How about lifting the ban on people who have spent over six months in Europe and/or the U.K. since 1986 -- as they have maintained since the mid-1990s?

I am still BSE/Mad Cow Disease-free, but they still don't want my blood or beautiful golden platelets!

- - - - -
During a semester abroad in 1992 I lived in Reading. A couple of times I went in to London and donated blood because I have great veins and also hey, free Guinness stubby! The interview before the donation included questions about tattoos, drug use, and travel. When I admitted to visiting New York City, I was turned over to a nurse in another room to verify that I had, indeed, visited New York City. When I again agreed, I was handed off to a white-coated doctor who took me down to a disused basement in order to whisper/hiss, "Did you have sex with anyone?"

When I laughed and said "No," we went back upstair and I was gladly processed through the system. It was exactly like this bit in "Monty Python's Life of Brian":
[a line of prisoners files past a jailer]
Coordinator: Crucifixion?
Prisoner: Yes.
Coordinator: Good. Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each.
[Next prisoner]
Coordinator: Crucifixion?
Mr. Cheeky: Er, no, freedom actually.
Coordinator: What?
Mr. Cheeky: Yeah, they said I hadn't done anything and I could go and live on an island somewhere.
Coordinator: Oh I say, that's very nice. Well, off you go then.
Mr. Cheeky: No, I'm just pulling your leg, it's crucifixion really.
Coordinator: [laughing] Oh yes, very good. Well...
Mr. Cheeky: Yes I know, out of the door, one cross each, line on the left.

posted by wenestvedt at 9:21 AM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


while i agree that the bans on the basis of things like bse should totally be looked at and probably overturned, it is an altogether different sort of thing than the way that AIDS panic targeted men sleeping with men and how those consequences are still heavily codified.
posted by nadawi at 9:37 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The key for me is this part from the letter: the policy "allows high-risk individuals to donate while prohibiting low-risk donors from giving blood." When the AMA recently voted to lift the lifetime ban, it proposed instead that "blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone."

The UK now uses a one-year deferral. Canada just eased its ban to a five year deferral period (hardly much of a change, but still). The Red Cross is opposed to the lifetime ban. We could go on and on. It's clearly a question of political will, not science. It's probably too much to hope that Obama would give some sort of signal here, so phone calls and letters to your representatives are probably the most useful thing you can do. Tell them you support the lifting of the ban and a 6-month deferral period.
posted by mediareport at 9:38 AM on August 5, 2013


My local vampire facility when I lived in Texas (Carter) got rid of the 80's BSE ban for all but the UK about 7 years ago, unless it was 10 years cumulative residence in some European countries or you received any blood products in most of the EU. I was able to start donating again then.

If you had been banned for non-UK residence you might re-check your local guidelines if you haven't lately.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:40 AM on August 5, 2013


I'm subject to the BSE ban. While I find it frustrating, there's at least sensible logic behind it. The disease can lay dormant for a long time and banning people who spent time in countries where they could have been exposed, is an easy, cheap way to mitigate the risk across what is probably a small percentage of donors in the US.

There's no logic behind excluding gay men from the donor pool. It's pure fear, misinformation and prejudice.
posted by IanMorr at 9:58 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm also subject to the BSE ban and, while I would like to see it overturned (really? the entirety of Europe? ALL OF IT?), it is not discriminatory like the ban on gay men giving blood. Not even comparable.

I would like to note, though, that the Bone Marrow Registry has no such qualms about potentially taking my precious European bodily fluids.
posted by lydhre at 10:34 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Coincidence that this should come up today. Donated about 10 days ago (in the UK) after a long period of abstinence (with men); the whole process was very simple. Of course, if I go back to sleeping with guys I probably won't get the chance ever again, but it was nice to be able to see what the process was like, (Got a letter today that my blood group was not the same as my medical file claimed, which was a little alarming).

It would be sensible for the DHHS, the executive branch (and by extension, the POTUS) to consider this issue solely on a scientific basis, but that seems highly unlikely.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 10:56 AM on August 5, 2013


The way I look at it is that we had a very serious blood born disease whose spread was exacerbated by the mechanics of how men have sex with other men, and how a certain sized subset of those men have multiple partners without barrier protection. I'm less worried about HIV since we can test for it, but more about the next disease.

Often we are fighting the last battle, esp. if we lost the battle. I'd like to see more science applied, but am okay with being conservative esp within a generation of _not_ being conservative.

(I say this as someone who can't donate based on where I lived for a while)
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:03 AM on August 5, 2013


bottlebrushtree, there is no indication that any illness is spread by gay men MORE than it's spread by straight men.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:05 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


was exacerbated by the mechanics of how men have sex with other men, and how a certain sized subset of those men have multiple partners without barrier protection

men and women have sex like that too. and men and women also choose not to use barrier protection. no one is looking to ban all old people from donating, so this argument seems unnecessarily focused on the sex life of gay men, and an argument that has very homophobic roots (not at all saying you're homophobic, just that it's an argument that should be examined because of the way it's been historically used).

but am okay with being conservative esp within a generation of _not_ being conservative.

what does this mean?

an overall ban is not going to get the most at risk populations weeded out - your airport bathroom wide stance having "straight" guys are donating under the current ban. it's a false sense of security that is actively harmful and discriminatory.
posted by nadawi at 11:21 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


there is no indication that any illness is spread by gay men MORE than it's spread by straight men. -- roomthreeseventeen

Studies indicate that unprotected anal intercourse is significantly more likely to result in HIV transmission than unprotected vaginal intercourse. One article "HIV transmission risk through anal intercourse: systematic review, meta-analysis and implications for HIV prevention" published in the International Journal of Epidemiology noted that "the risk of HIV transmission during anal intercourse may be around 18 times greater than during vaginal intercourse."

Ultimately, the authors concluded: "Unprotected AI is a high-risk practice for HIV transmission, probably with substantial variation in infectiousness."

The close link between anal intercourse and HIV transmission; the historical prevalence of HIV among the populations of men having sex with men; and the importance of maintaining an extremely safe, reliable blood supply--all of these are important factors in the conservatism seen in decisions to continue deferrals and bans on blood donation. This isn't the hateful discrimination that some portray it to be--it's conservative medical risk-stratification. The same is done with individuals potentially exposed to tainted blood through transfusion, BSE, and travel to higher risk regions. The vast majority of these individuals are likely clean, but despite a desire to donate, they are excluded. To paraphrase a great thinker: the needs of the many outweigh the desires of the few.

That said, the increased prevalence of anal intercourse among heterosexual populations, better knowledge of the importance of protection among individuals engaged in anal intercourse, and increased ability to reliably detected the HIV virus may require us to re-evaluate this position.
posted by brandonjadams at 12:08 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


the increased prevalence of anal intercourse among heterosexual populations,

Oh, I don't think it's that new.

If anal sex is the risk, then why specify "men who have sex with men", and not just "people who have anal sex"? (People might lie, but they do anyway, and it would make it a more interesting exchange with the nurse)

Btw are donations not screened for major blood-borne diseases anyway?
posted by billiebee at 12:33 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


This isn't the hateful discrimination that some portray it to be

you cannot divorce the early homophobic approach to hiv from the ban. the fda enacted the ban 2 years before reagan even said aids for the first time (and he only said it to enforce that teaching about aids couldn't be "value neutral" and that "morals" could take care of it). it was a policy born out of fear, a policy that many groups (including the american medical association) have said is unnecessary and discriminatory.

may require us to re-evaluate this position

welcome to the ongoing conversation - that is EXACTLY what is happening. and upon reevaluation it seems to most like it's not the best way forward.
posted by nadawi at 12:49 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Studies indicate that unprotected anal intercourse is significantly more likely to result in HIV transmission than unprotected vaginal intercourse.

That has zero to do with anyone's sexual orientation.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:22 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I know, right? It's like some people never go to the straight section of an adult bookstore and see the rows and rows of anal porn videos.

They need to get out more.
posted by mediareport at 2:40 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It looks like the European residency limitation on blood donation by the red cross may be 5 years for Europe, 3 months for UK, not 6 months anywhere in Europe as some of us remembered.
posted by jepler at 6:27 AM on August 6, 2013


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