Today is the National Gay Blood Drive, a campaign dedicated to bringing attention to the fact that the FDA still bans any men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977 from becoming blood donors.
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. [more inside]
"Especially with the country in great need of donation, science should speak louder than stigma in determining who can help."
Tainted: Why Gay Men Still Can't Donate Blood - "Since 1983, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines have disqualified men who have ever had sex with men (MSM) from donating blood... Uneven application of exclusion to at-risk individuals suggests that risk aversion disproportionately impacts MSMs. For example, a non-MSM individual who has had sexual contact with a commercial sex worker or HIV-positive partner is deferred for only twelve months... The fact that the U.S. upholds a lifetime ban on MSM donation while Australian policy allows MSM individuals to donate a year or less after contact reveals a glaring discrepancy. Both ethics and science point to a flaw in FDA policy. That I could have had sex with 365 partners this year and be a perfectly fine candidate for donating blood, while the MSM next to me wouldn't qualify, betrays a faulty line of logic." [more inside]
Researchers have apparently found a way to prevent HIV from damaging the immune system. Johns Hopkins and Imperial reseachers have developed a chemical that breaks down the cholesterol membrane around HIV. This stops the virus intererfering with immune response, and may allow a vaccine that prevents infection. [more inside]
Are the Rules That Determine Who Can Donate Blood Discriminatory? Canadian AIDS researchers Dr. Mark Wainberg and Dr. Norbert Gilmore say that while the ban on blood donation from men who have sex with other men may have been ethically and scientifically justified in the 1980's, it no longer makes sense. (CMAJ.) Even though the US FDA reaffirmed their long-standing ban in 2007, they plan to revisit the policy in June. [more inside]
Fourteen infants in Kazakhstan hospitals have been found to have HIV. The chief of the regional anti-AIDS center blamed degenerate parents. Not a bad guess; certainly drug use and prostitution have been the major driving force behind the spread of HIV into Central Asia. In this case, however, the victims were probably infected by tainted blood, a problem largely solved in developed countries but still problematic in much of the world. Attitudes like the official's in this case are a big part of the problem.
Welcome to self-policing corporate responsibility. A division of the pharmaceutical company Bayer (Expertise with responsibility) sold millions of dollars of blood-clotting medicine for hemophiliacs - medicine that carried a high risk of transmitting AIDS - to Asia and Latin America in the mid-1980s while selling a new, safer product in the West.
How Safe is the Blood Supply? A tainted donor infects two with HIV in Florida. The people in charge of the blood claim it's safe. But recent books and documentaries raise serious questions.