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Old 18th Aug 2005, 04:41 PM   #1
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queer blood donation ban

So I was wondering what people here think of the ban on blood donations (in Canada and the US) from guys who, even once since 1977, have had sex with other guys?

I'm currently involved in a dispute with a gay friend of mine who thinks the ban should be kept. I think that's ridiculous because women or straight men can engage in all sorts of high-risk activities but then go through a 6-month (what I call a) "contrition" period and be completely accepted as blood donors.

What spurred my latest round of interest in the issue is that Canada just removed the restriction on people from France and Britain from donating (because of fear of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, aka the human variant of mad-cow) which had been previously applied to people who had lived for 3 months or more in Britain or France since 1997. So basically, except for a handful of groups, in Canada if you don't engage in risky behaviour (sex with someone who's history you don't know, getting tattooed or pierced, getting accupuncture or electrolysis, getting a needle-stick injury) for 6 months, you can donate blood. For gay guys, that period is now 28 years.

Anyway, it just smacks of homophobia to me, that every single unit of donated blood is rigorously tested for a whole slew of blood-borne diseases but somehow gay guys are essentially barred from donating even though other people who might be just as much at risk of donating infected blood have to wait (a piddly in comparison) 6 months.

On a personal level, I can tell you that I and I think nearly all of my gay friends would not only make excellent blood donors but we'd be pretty likely to donate whenever needed.

So... thoughts? Comments?
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Old 19th Aug 2005, 12:09 PM   #2
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It's funny that you mention this. I've been lurking around this place for the past few weeks and actually just began coming out as a gay man about a week and a half ago. This morning I donated blood for the first time ever because it's something I wanted to do while I still could. As I get further out of the closet, I'll start dating and that will almost certainly lead to becoming what they dub an MSM (man who has sex with men), which of course will disqualify me from blood donation.

Personally, I think the policy is outdated. The tests for HIV in blood are very accurate now days. Moreover, all men who have had sex with a man at least once are not as equally at risk for HIV. In fact, a good portion of them who religiously practice safe-sex techniques or who are in monogamous relationships are at a lower risk than straight people who have unprotected sex regularly (who aren't prevent from donating). I believe in the US you can be a guy who had sex with an HIV positive woman even, so long as it was more than 12 months ago.

That said, I think it's one of those things that will be difficult to change politically. First, the number of possible donors who don't currently donate but would if the rule were changed is not terribly large, for two reasons: gay and bisexual men are a smallish minority (even with the generous 10% figure, you're looking at 5% of the population since we're talking about men only) and a number of people donate already by lying on the forms. Second, this decision is serious in that it involves people's lives (although this is less true today than in the 80s when the rules first appeared thanks to better treatment options), so they're going to error on the side of caution unless there's an extremely compelling reason not to. Unfortunately, for most politicians (who either make the decisions or bring them before relevant agencies like the US FDA), being fair to gay people is not a compelling enough reason to change things.

Finally, I think a lot of it comes down to GLBT advocacy groups and lobbyists picking their battles. There are a lot of issues out there, many of which are receiving more focus right now like gay marriage, civil unions, and broadening legal protection from discrimination.
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Old 20th Aug 2005, 03:12 AM   #3
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The UK blood donor scheme has exactly the same outdated ban on anyone who has ever had gay sex from donating. See http://www.blood.co.uk/pages/flash_questions.html and get to question 12, or the list here https://secure.blood.co.uk/c11_cant.asp.

Quote:
You should never give blood if:

1 You carry the hepatitis B virus, the hepatitis C virus or the HIV virus.
2 You're a man who's had sex with another man, even "safe sex" using a condom.
3 You've ever worked as a prostitute.
4 You've ever injected yourself with drugs - even once.
Yet they are constantly advertising for more donors....
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Old 20th Aug 2005, 08:07 AM   #4
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You know, I think this is all just some stupid homopobic bullshit syndrom. I am going to do some protesting on this, belive me. And same thing about the draft in america. Right now, the will discharge you if you tell them that you are gay/lesbian/bisexual. But if the draft comes along, and they dont care if you are any of those, so thats kinda fucked up too. Right now, we all need to band together and fight this homophobia, and get others to better understand us. Gay blood is blood, nothing different about it. Everybody must stand together!!
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Old 20th Aug 2005, 11:19 AM   #5
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I'd be interested to see what the basis for such a ban is. I'd imagine that there are statistics that support such a ban. The percentage of gay men in America with AIDS is probably slightly higher than other percentages. However, even so, the ban as it stands currently is entirely too restrictive. Why should drug users be allowed to donate blood six months later, but not us gays?

There is a reason behind this particular fear, however. While it is irrational for the most part, gay men (especially closeted gay men) had a big part in spreading AIDS throughout America. In the 1980's, Haiti was a huge hotspot for gay travel. Think of it as an Ibiza or Mikanos, or whatever. And there was a huge gay prostitution industry, which of course is why people went there. Either way, due in part to native superstitions, AIDS travelled like wildfire throughout Haiti, certain towns having 70% infection rates!

Anyway, the gay tourists brought AIDS back to America and started spreading it through the gay community really quickly. Enter left the four H's; Haitian, Homo, Hemopheliac, and Heroin user. These were the four groups singled out as susceptible to HIV.

I guess they just haven't revised the ban in the past 20 years based on that fear of the four H's. Sorry if that wasn't so clear, I'm in a bit of a rush.
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Old 20th Aug 2005, 03:43 PM   #6
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Same ruling in Australia - but ATM a gay man is in the process of mounting a challenge to it.
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Old 21st Aug 2005, 07:43 AM   #7
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I had hepatitis... I can't give blood. And that sucks because I'm 0 negative...
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Old 21st Aug 2005, 03:28 PM   #8
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In regards to the ban, pretty damned illogical if you ask me. Many of my gay friends are safer than many of my straight friends.

Another question that I didn't notice mentioned earlier. Would you lie and say that you are straight to be able to donate blood?

Me? No. I wouldn't donate. Call me selfish, but I have principles. And my principles say that I should NEVER have to lie about my sexual orientation for anything. I don't know if that makes me a horrible person, but I don't compromise my principles.
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Old 21st Aug 2005, 09:23 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonB321
I'd be interested to see what the basis for such a ban is. I'd imagine that there are statistics that support such a ban. The percentage of gay men in America with AIDS is probably slightly higher than other percentages.
The statistics are pretty bad from what I've read. Basically, something like 3-10% of gay men are HIV positive, while only 0.3% of the general population (0.1% of women) is. These numbers are probably skewed though because they often recruit gay men from bars, clubs and other places (usually in big cities too) where guys often might be looking for a hookup.

You can also see it in the numbers that show that gay men comprise the majority of new HIV cases in the US each year (although the fraction has been going down for a while as other groups catch up), even though they are obviously a fairly small percentage of the total population (like just a couple percent).

Still, I feel like it is discriminatory, because most of those new infections of gay men are still almost entirely confined to guys who do risky things like have unprotected sex, increasingly often while using drugs like meth.
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Old 21st Aug 2005, 11:21 PM   #10
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3-10% is quite a large gap, and not very specific at all...

But I do believe these bans served a purpose years ago, when the number of straight people with AIDS was lower, and number of homosexuals with AIDS was higher. Additionally, the methods for detecting AIDS wouldn't have been as effective as they are today, so the bans weren't totally unjust.

As the figures and technology have improved, I think these bans have become somewhat outdated, and it's probably only a matter of time before they realise this.
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Old 21st Aug 2005, 11:22 PM   #11
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I believe black women are actually now the highest rising group for AIDS, but besides that. If those are the statistics, I can't really be against the ban. You're talking about a HUGE increase in risk. I mean, granted, there's a case by case basis you have to follow here, but most screenings don't catch AIDS in the first 6 months, when you're talking about a group that is 10 times more likely to have the virus, than you're talking about a good amount of new cases, and a much better chance that the cases will get through their screening processes, putting people receiving the blood at a higher risk.

I'd like to hear statistics to the contrary, but if those are the facts. I don't mind the ban all that much.
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Old 24th Aug 2005, 05:24 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drhladnjak
The statistics are pretty bad from what I've read. Basically, something like 3-10% of gay men are HIV positive, while only 0.3% of the general population (0.1% of women) is. These numbers are probably skewed though because they often recruit gay men from bars, clubs and other places (usually in big cities too) where guys often might be looking for a hookup.

You can also see it in the numbers that show that gay men comprise the majority of new HIV cases in the US each year (although the fraction has been going down for a while as other groups catch up), even though they are obviously a fairly small percentage of the total population (like just a couple percent).

Still, I feel like it is discriminatory, because most of those new infections of gay men are still almost entirely confined to guys who do risky things like have unprotected sex, increasingly often while using drugs like meth.
The figures the person I was debating it with gave are that of the 12 million units of blood donated in the US each year, 10 are infected with HIV and make it past the screening process, which they estimate results in 2 to 3 people becoming HIV+ due to blood transfusions. The estimates are that if they modified the ban, something like 62 000 MSM (men who have sex with men) would donate which would raise the 10 to 11.7. So yes, that's a 17% increase in infected units but 17 out of 12 000 000 is still a really tiny percentage, and if the math holds, would only results in 3 or 4 HIV infections, which is to say one more per year.

I wonder how many more units of non-infected blood that would infuse the system with, if 62 000 were donating who couldn't before.

The ban was perfectly understandable in the early 80s when people had no idea what HIV was, let alone how it was transmitted or how to screen for it. But that changed in the late 80s, and it's nearly 20 years later, so I think the ban is completely bogus now.
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Old 26th Aug 2005, 11:03 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonB321
I believe black women are actually now the highest rising group for AIDS, but besides that. If those are the statistics, I can't really be against the ban. You're talking about a HUGE increase in risk. I mean, granted, there's a case by case basis you have to follow here, but most screenings don't catch AIDS in the first 6 months, when you're talking about a group that is 10 times more likely to have the virus, than you're talking about a good amount of new cases, and a much better chance that the cases will get through their screening processes, putting people receiving the blood at a higher risk.

I'd like to hear statistics to the contrary, but if those are the facts. I don't mind the ban all that much.
Straight black women are a fast growing group, but they are still a relatively small percentage. A lot of this has been attributed to black bisexual men who have sex "on the down low". Some say the lower degree of acceptance of being openly gay or bi in the black community is connected to this "on the down low" phenomenon. A study came out recently saying that something like 45% of black gay and bisexual men in 5 large American cities are HIV positive. Worse still, something like 2/3 didn't even know they were positive.

The general numbers (even today) basically break down as follows: half are gay or bisexual men, a quarter are straight people and a quarter are intravenous drug users. Of course, there are some very small fractions that include lesbians and people who got HIV from a blood transfusion. Those numbers have obviously changed a bit since the mid-80s when nearly all GRID/AIDS/HIV cases were in gay men, IV drug users and certain other groups (like Haitian immigrants).
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Old 26th Aug 2005, 12:00 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonB321
I believe black women are actually now the highest rising group for AIDS, but besides that. If those are the statistics, I can't really be against the ban. You're talking about a HUGE increase in risk. I mean, granted, there's a case by case basis you have to follow here, but most screenings don't catch AIDS in the first 6 months, when you're talking about a group that is 10 times more likely to have the virus, than you're talking about a good amount of new cases, and a much better chance that the cases will get through their screening processes, putting people receiving the blood at a higher risk.

I'd like to hear statistics to the contrary, but if those are the facts. I don't mind the ban all that much.
Uh... most "regular" screenings (the type you'd get if you were getting a regular HIV test) are accurate within THREE months and the ones they use on donated blood are accurate within 11 DAYS.

As I pointed out before, the risk is going from 10 per 12 million to 11.7 per 12 million. Substantial increase? Yes. Worth maintaining the ban over? I don't think so.
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Old 28th Aug 2005, 11:21 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeyconnick
Uh... most "regular" screenings (the type you'd get if you were getting a regular HIV test) are accurate within THREE months and the ones they use on donated blood are accurate within 11 DAYS.

As I pointed out before, the risk is going from 10 per 12 million to 11.7 per 12 million. Substantial increase? Yes. Worth maintaining the ban over? I don't think so.
Is there generally a shortage in blood?
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Old 29th Aug 2005, 08:17 AM   #16
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If you believe the persistant advertising for blood donors on commercial radio here in the UK, you would certainly think there was a supply problem.

Whether there really is a problem is unknown, but I don't think they'd be advertising if they had ample as it's just wasted money (on advertising and on processing the extra donations).
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Old 29th Aug 2005, 10:30 AM   #17
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According to Canadian Blood Services, yes: http://www.bloodservices.ca/CentreAp...3?OpenDocument
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Old 19th Sep 2005, 11:57 AM   #18
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Here its banned to..

...but mostly because Gay men still carry more Hepatits virusses (shouldn't the plural be virie) than heterosexual people. In South Africa where I come from originally, the anger was immense at the UK due to this new ruling stating that any one who has slept with a South African - ever, is not allowed to donate blood either - that is clearly due to the HIV rate in SA (1 in 10 people are infected).

In Germany there was a tremendous mistake made by the testing laboratories, and they infected patients with HIV. This was in 1997, so the technology cannot be a logical way to explain why the ban should be lifted...
Even more crazy - gay people are allowed to donate white blood cells (plasma), but not red ones, as these get filtered before hand...

We must be honest - when watching the Gay Press Barebacking, drugs etc. has become a fashion fad again, and gay men do live promiscuously (oooh that doesn't look good sp-wise).
No, the trick is in not generalising too much, and this is what is happening.

It's ok. It's not the end of the world - I feel more strongly about things like gay couples who may not adopt, or get married, or a executed, stuff where human rights are really just played with...not being allowed to donate blood - its not going to be the end of my world, I can help somwhere else.
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