Showing posts with label Donating Blood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Donating Blood. Show all posts

December 5, 2016

Gay Blood Donation Science Now Political Most Change Faster

More than 30 years ago, as the AIDS epidemic exploded, the nation’s blood banks banned donations from men who had sex with other men.

The logic was sound at the time. Tests of the era couldn’t adequately detect HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. As a result, thousands of people unwittingly contracted HIV from tainted blood during transfusions. Banning donations from gay men was a drastic step, but necessary to protect the nation’s blood supply.

Things have changed in the intervening three decades, though — including the science of blood testing. Tests are now so accurate and rapid that blood banks can tell with near certainty if blood has been infected with HIV even if the donor had been exposed to the virus just 10 days previously. Today, the risk of contracting HIV from blood in the United States is only about 1 in 1.5 million.

The advances in testing mean a blanket donor ban on gay and bisexual men is no longer necessary. With that in mind, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration studied relaxing the ban and last year it wisely acceded to calls to update its blood donation recommendations and stop calling for a lifetime ban on donations from men who have sex with men. The FDA continued to recommend a ban on donations from commercial sex workers and intravenous drug abusers. Although the recommendations do not have the force of law, blood banks typically adopt rules at least as stringent for liability reasons.

The recommendations adopted in December were not much of an improvement, however. Men could donate only if they hadn’t had sex with another man for 12 months. Why 12 months? Good question. There’s no science that supports a yearlong donor deferral for gay and bisexual men. It seems the FDA chose 12 months not because that span of time is demonstrably safer but because that’s what other countries (including Britain and Australia) have done.

But a year without sex is a de facto ban for sexually active men, making the new rules just as senselessly discriminatory as the old ones. This became clear to the public in June after the deadliest shooting in the nation’s history, when a gunman opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. When members of the local LGBT community turned out to give blood to help those injured in the shooting, many were barred from doing so.

The incident prompted 24 U.S. senators to sign a letter to the FDA, asking the agency to develop “better blood donor deferral rules that are grounded in science, based on individual risk factors, don’t unfairly single out one group of individuals, and allow all healthy Americans to donate.”

The FDA agreed to reconsider its call for a 12-month waiting period. Instead, it said it would look at the feasibility of a system that evaluates potential male donors based on the risk posed by their individual behavior. This process is supported by gay rights advocates, some public health experts and the American Medical Association. We agree. The waiting period should be shortened to a more reasonable length and donors should be evaluated based on their behavior, not their sexuality.

It’s time to end to restrictions that are based on fear rather than science. The FDA should shorten the recommended waiting period to a more practicable length and work toward developing a risk assessment model.

— Los Angeles Times

September 1, 2016

Lifetime Ban on Gay Men Donating Blood in Northern Ireland “Lifted”

A controversial lifetime ban on gay men donating blood in Northern Ireland has been lifted.

The decision by Stormont Health Minister Michelle O’Neill comes after a long campaign by gay rights activists and a series of court battles over the contentious prohibition.

A similar ban was ended in England, Scotland and Wales in 2011 and replaced with rules that allowed gay men to give blood 12 months after their last sexual encounter with another man.

Northern Ireland has now adopted the same deferral policy. 
Mrs O’Neill said: “As Health Minister my first responsibility in this matter is patient safety.

“Surveillance data from England, Scotland and Wales and survey evidence from across Britain and the north of Ireland have provided assurance that the risk is lower with a one-year deferral.

“My decision is based on the evidence regarding the safety of donated blood.”

The lifetime ban had been retained in Northern Ireland by successive Democratic Unionist health ministers, who cited blood safety concerns.

A lifetime ban on donations by men who have had sex with men was introduced in the UK and many other countries in the 1980s in response to the emergence of AIDS.

In May 2011 UK experts concluded that the evidence no longer supported a lifetime ban and in September 2011 the health ministers in England, Scotland and Wales adopted a one-year deferral.

The absolute prohibition remained in place in Northern Ireland until today.

In the most recent court judgement on the gay blood ban, the Court of Appeal decided the decision on whether to lift the ban rested with Stormont, not the UK Health Secretary.

A previous ruling that former DUP health minister Edwin Poots had acted with pre-determined bias based on his Christian beliefs in retaining the ban was overturned.

It was one of a number of LGBT issues that have stirred controversy at Stormont.

The most high profile remaining dispute is over the ongoing bar on same-sex marriage.

June 29, 2016

Coalition in Congress Being Formed to Have FDA Lift Blood Ban on LGBT

Image result for gay blood                                                                                                                           

A coalition is building to put pressure on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to lift its ban on sexually active men donating blood.

In a letter, obtained by SFGN and addressed to FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, 116 current members of the U.S. Congress express their collective disappointment with current FDA deferral policy on blood donation for men who have sex with men (MSM).
“In practice, the current FDA deferral policy effectively leaves the majority of MSM ineligible to donate blood, as the 12-month celibacy requirement is unrealistic for most healthy gay and bisexual men to meet,” the letter reads.
Dated June 20, the letter is signed by 10 members of Florida’s delegation: Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston), Alcee Hastings (D-Miramar), Lois Frankel (D-West Palm Beach), Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton), Frederica Wilson (D-Miami Gardens), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami), Patrick E. Murphy (D-Jupiter), Kathy Castor (D-Tampa), Carlos Curbelo (R-Kendall) and Alan Grayson (D-Orlando).
“We are concerned that the 12-month deferral policy, which suggests that the sexual relationships of MSM men and transgender women inherently pose a risk of HIV transmission, furthers a stigma that we have persistently fought to eliminate,” the letter states.
The ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood has long been a bone of contention for progressive activists. Enacted in 1983 during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the ban, scientists insist, no longer makes sense. Last year, the FDA updated its policy to allow MSM men and transgender women to donate blood following one year of celibacy.
In their letter to Commissioner Califf, members of Congress called the deferral policy “unsound.”
“The FDA questionnaire should reflect risk-based behaviors as opposed to sexual orientation,” the letter states.
The blood ban issue came to light following the atrocities at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando where 49 people were killed and another 53 wounded in what is being called the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. With blood in demand, many healthy gay and bisexual men felt helpless to come to the aid of their community.
“It is beyond time to lift this discriminatory ban,” said Murphy.
Added Grayson, “After a tragedy, giving blood is a form of showing solidarity, even citizenship.”

South Florida Gay News
John McDonald

June 16, 2016

Gay Men Are Barred from Donating Blood If They had Sex within 1 yr.


Why? You might ask.  For not any good reason I can think of since the virus cannot only be detected by antibodies but now they can see the virus and know what it looks like within reason, taking into account its mutations. Which means they can detect the virus safely within a short period of time after being infected. True the time varies within days but you can also have a more than safe time period of 3 wks down to 2 weeks let’s say. Actually the real fair way is not to ask anybody who they have intercourse with rather when was the last time. Asking who you fuck should only be your business and it should have nothing to do when you want to do your civic duty and help your community. Right now the system is on the honesty system. I am sure people working for companies that push employees to donate blood have closeted employees that will be disqualified if honest but they lie and give blood but it is donated and taken. Which means unsafe blood is being donated all the time and so far its gotten caught if infected. There are no cases of people catching HIV through blood transfusions. What does it mean? The system works to detect untainted blood. No need to have artificial false timelines to alleviate the anti gay lobby.
The National Gay Blood Drive said in a statement, “While many gay and bisexual men will be eligible to donate their blood and help save lives under this 12-month deferral, countless more will continue to be banned solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and without medical or scientific reasoning.” 

In a Q&A on its website, the FDA explained its decision to get rid of its lifetime ban and change it to a 12-month ban, stating, "FDA expects that the changes made to the recommendations will maintain or improve blood safety with respect to HIV. The change with respect to [men who have had sex with other men] reflects current scientific evidence, and better aligns the deferral period with the deferral period for other men and women at increased risk for HIV infection."

Many people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community have expressed their concern and outrage over the policy, suggesting that it is still a discriminatory practice. Some have expressed outrage over the fact that queer men are unable to donate to their own partners, including Colorado Congressman Jared Polis.

The FDA's ban dates back to 1985, when the AIDS epidemic was first noticed in the U.S. and all queer men were banned from donating blood. However, though the policy's limit has been shortened to a time period that the FDA thinks is long enough to detect an infection, according to The Huffington Post, Whitman-Walker Health, an Washington D.C. LGBTQ community health center, has suggested that the waiting period doesn't have to be 12 months. This is especially due to the fact that HIV can be detected in a short period of time — "as little as nine days," according to The New York Times.

OneBlood, a blood center that services the state of Florida, posted a statement on Sunday noting "There is an urgent need for O Negative, O Positive and AB Plasma blood donors following a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida." You can help by donating at local blood donation centers.

May 13, 2015

FDA to Recommend Gay and Bisexual Men Can Donate Blood

The Food and Drug Administration has formally proposed letting gay and bisexual men donate blood, so long as they've abstained from sex for a year.
The recommendation changes the current guidance, which is that any man who have ever had sex with another man in his entire life should never be able to donate blood. It's a policy that has enraged gay rights groups and that is virtually impossible to enforce.
"No transmissions of HIV, hepatitis B virus, or hepatitis C virus have been documented through U.S.-licensed plasma derived products in the past two decades," the FDA says in its recommendation.
The FDA also handed a victory to transgender people, saying donors may choose how to identify their sex.
The reason for banning donations by men who have sex with other men is simple: they are at much higher risk of becoming infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as well as other viruses such as hepatitis B and C.
"No transmissions of HIV, hepatitis B virus, or hepatitis C virus have been documented through U.S.-licensed plasma derived products in the past two decades."
"Since September 1985, FDA has recommended that blood establishments indefinitely defer male donors who have had sex with another male, even one time, since 1977, due to the strong clustering of AIDS illness in the MSM (men who have sex with men) community and the subsequent discovery of high rates of HIV infection in that population," FDA says in its guidance.
Before 1985, people did become infected with HIV from blood transfusions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2001 that more than 14,000 people were infected that way.
There are good blood tests that are now used to screen blood donations for HIV and many other viruses, such as hepatitis. The American Red Cross and America's Blood Centers, which collect donations, say the lifetime ban is unnecessary. CDC says the risk of getting HIV from a transfusion is one in 1.5 million.

Mayor can't be blood donor due to sexual orientation

The tests don't detect a very recent infection, however. To be safe, the FDA wants to stick with the one-year limit. The FDA first said it would change the guidance last December.
"We recommend that donors be provided donor education material before each donation explaining the risk of HIV transmission by blood and blood products, certain behaviors associated with the risk of HIV infection, and the signs and symptoms associated with HIV infection, so that donors can self-defer," FDA says.
"The donor education material should be presented to donors in a manner they will understand, which may include oral, written, or multimedia formats. The donor education material should instruct the donor not to donate when a risk factor for HIV infection or signs or symptoms of HIV infection are present."
FDA says other countries have allowed gay and bisexual men to donate blood with little problem. They include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Hungary, Japan, Sweden and Britain.
About 7 percent of U.S. men report that they have ever had sex with another man and 4 percent of men have done so in the past five years.
FDA says other groups should still be asked not to donate blood, including prostitutes and injecting drug users.
"Recent data indicate that commercial sex work and injection drug use are behaviors that continue to place individuals both at a relatively high risk of HIV infection and at a relatively high risk of window period transmission of HIV," FDA notes. "Window period" is the short period of time before a test can detect an infection in blood.
"This policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply."
The Human Rights Campaign, which has pushed hard to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, is still critical of FDA's new policy.
"While the new policy is a step in the right direction toward an ideal policy that reflects the best scientific research, it still falls far short of a fully acceptable solution because it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men," said the group's top policy official, David Stacy. "This policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply."
FDA notes this is guidance and not any type of regulation. "Guidances describe the FDA's current thinking on a topic and should be viewed only as recommendations, unless specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited."
The guidance also asks people not to donate blood if they've recently received a transfusion, and it asks women who have had recent sex with a bisexual or gay man to wait a year before donating.

April 30, 2015

EU Limits Laws Banning Gays from Giving Blood

Test tubes at a Paris blood-collection center; the European Court of Justice issued a ruling Wednesday on France's ban on blood donations by gay men.ENLARGE  

The case at the European Court of Justice concerned France’s lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with other men. Similar legislation also exists in other EU countries, albeit many states are moving to loosen their restrictions
The ECJ said that scientific evidence that gay men are at a higher risk of carrying serious infectious diseases, such as HIV, can justify a ban in national legislation. In its assessment of the case, it pointed to data submitted to the court showing that the rate of infection with HIV among gay men in France was 200 times greater than that of the heterosexual population between 2003 and 2008. It also added that France had the highest rate of HIV infections among gay men of any country in Europe and Central Asia.
However, the ECJ said the French court that will ultimately rule on the French legislation had to check whether there were better and “less onerous” ways of protecting the recipients of donated blood from infection “other than permanent deferral from blood donation.”
“The principle of proportionality might not be respected” under the current blanket ban, it said.
The ruling comes as many countries—including France—are loosening restrictions on blood donations from gay or bisexual men. French Health Minister Marisol Touraine on Wednesday reiterated plans to change the questionnaire given to potential blood donors to focus on identifying risky behaviors. 
“Discrimination of donors based on their sexual orientation is unacceptable and only the security of recipient can justify limitations on blood donation,” Ms. Touraine said. She said a meeting with experts to propose a new questionnaire is foreseen for early May.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced in December it would reverse its lifetime ban, saying that modern screening methods made it unnecessary. However, the FDA still plans to reject blood from men who have had sex with another man in the past 12 months. 
The U.K. made similar changes to its assessment of suitable blood donors in 2011.
ILGA-Europe—the Europe chapter of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association—said Wednesday’s judgment doesn’t go far enough. 
“Stigmatization does not equate to proper management of blood donations,” said Sophie Aujean, ILGA-Europe’s senior policy and programs officer. The organization called on the French government to focus exclusively on risky behaviors and not on potential donors’ sexual orientation. 
Write to Gabriele Steinhauser at

February 27, 2015

The Celibacy Challenge by Alan Cumming at GLAAD


A coalition of organization’s, including GLAAD and Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), launched a new PSA and social media campaign starring openly bisexual actor Alan Cumming to raise awareness about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) blood donor deferral policy for gay and bisexual men. 
Created by Saatchi & Saatchi NY and Bullitt, #CelibacyChallenge urges the FDA to implement a blood donation system that screens all donors based on risk for HIV transmission, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 
“Stereotypes have no place in saving lives,​” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “The FDA’s proposed change still means that countless gay and bisexual men will be turned away from blood banks simply because of who they are. GLAAD is proud to stand alongside GMHC and Saatchi & Saatchi NY to shed light on this important issue.”
To call attention to the FDA’s blood donor deferral policy, GLAAD and GMHC’s campaign illustrates how unrealistic it is to ask someone to remain celibate for a year in order to donate blood by offering “approved alternatives” to sex. 
Participants are asked to share the humorous video through social media using the hashtag #CelibacyChallenge and to sign a petition calling on the FDA to modify their policy. 
More info about the donor issue and pro bono campaign can be found HERE 
Watch the video below.

January 9, 2015

Judge in Ireland Rules the gay men blood plan, is gay biased and Irrational


Ruling strengthens October 2013 finding that ban on gay men donating blood is irrational 

Edwin Poots:  the former health minister has launched an appeal against the irrationality finding against him. Photograph: Kevin Boyes
Edwin Poots: the former health minister has launched an appeal against the irrationality finding against him. Photograph: Kevin Boyes
Former Stormont health minister Edwin Poots’ ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland was infected by apparent bias, a High Court judge ruled yesterday. Mr Justice Treacy also held there had been a “very troubling lack of candour” and attempt by the Democratic Unionist MLA to conceal the fact he had taken a decision to maintain the lifetime prohibition. 
He also backed claims by lawyers for a homosexual man that Assembly comments showed Mr Poots stance was influenced by his Christian beliefs. 
The verdict strengthens a previous finding in October 2013 that the ban is irrational. At that time the judge had reached no conclusion on allegations that the decision was prejudiced by religious views. 
Before leaving office Mr Poots launched an appeal against the irrationality finding against him. British health secretary Jeremy Hunt is also contesting the ruling. With the appeal hearing due to get under way later this month, Mr Justice Treacy was asked to make a further determination on the claims of apparent bias. 
The gay blood ban, put in place during the 1980s AIDS threat, was lifted in EnglandScotland and Wales in November 2011. It was replaced by new rules which allow blood from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago. Mr Poots however maintained the prohibition in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety. 
In his earlier verdict Mr Justice Treacy found the decision was irrational and declared Mr Poots in breach of the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before the Stormont Executive. 
Counsel for the former minister has consistently rejected claims that his position may have been influenced by religious views, but lawyers for the gay man who brought the challenge, identified only as JR65, introduced remarks Mr Poots made in the Assembly while allegedly talking about the case to support their claims of suspected bias. 
The DUP MLA was recorded as saying: “There is a continual battering of Christian principles, and I have to say this – shame on the courts, for going down the route of constantly attacking Christian principles, Christian ethics and Christian morals, on which this society was based and which have given us a very good foundation.” 
Mr Justice Treacy questioned why he would be making such comments if his decision was based only on health grounds. 
“If health was, as the minister claimed, the sole basis underpinning the impugned decision, no question of any assault on Christian principles or morals could conceivably arise,” he said. “Such a criticism could only make any sense if the minister regarded his challenged decision as a manifestation of expression of his religious beliefs.” 
The judge also cited Mr Poots previous opposition to gay rights legislation and a news article from 2001 where he spoke of the rights of those receiving donations to know they are getting “clean blood” uncontaminated by the HIV virus. 
Setting out further reasons for his finding, Mr Justice Treacy pointed out how the minister took his decision against the advice of senior officials and without consulting the Assembly health committee or other interested parties. Mr Poots’s initial denial that he had taken a decision on the issue was rejected. 
The judge said: “The Minister’s very troubling lack of candor and his attempt to conceal the fact that he had made a decision are plainly circumstances that are material to whether a fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias.”
Alan Erwin

December 25, 2014

Are You Gay? Should Never be the Question for Blood Donations

  A US proposal to lift a lifetime ban on gay blood donation still includes certain restrictions. Italy's Under Secretary of State for Constitutional Reforms, Ivan Scalfarotto, spoke to DW about the implications.                                                                             

DW:Do you think a recommendation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to replace the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay men with a policy barring men who have had sex with men within 12 months is a significant policy shift?
Ivan Scalfarotto: Let's be very clear: what is at risk is not people, but behaviors. There are behaviors which are clearly risky, but I think all restrictions that have to do with people, and not behavior, are unreasonable. The risk is the exchange of bodily fluids. This can happen between men and women, men and men, and even women and women. So, the only reasonable ban you can impose on blood donation has to do with risky behavior and that has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the donor.
Three decades on, the spread of HIV is still closely associated with the gay community. Do you think the move by the US could set a precedent for other nations, including Germany, France and Italy, to review restrictions on blood donations from gay men?
 Ivan Scalfarotto became the first openly GLBT person to join the Italian government in February 2014. 
Ivan Scalfarotto became the first openly GLBT person to join the Italian government in February 2014.
Italian MP Ivan Scalfarotto became the first openly GLBT person to join the government in February 2014
Suggesting that sex between two men is, per se, riskier than sex between a man and a woman is unreasonable and still imposes a stigma on gay people. Frankly speaking, it does not touch on the issue that the only discrimination one should consider, the only difference, and the only ban that should be imposed, is on behaviors. Those issues to do with considering some people at more risk than others are irrational - for example, thinking that a celibate gay man is in a riskier position than a sexually active straight person just because of their gay status. This is not reasonable. I think the scientific community is quite clear on this, and I think there is more of a political issue behind the idea that excluding a certain section of the community removes the risk. In recent years, the gay community has done a lot of work in terms of sexual health education, while this did not appear to happen in the heterosexual community, so to speak.

We know the rate of HIV infection between straight people has been on the increase, so I think once again, this does not help because it makes straight people believe they are safe, which is not the case. So, everyone should have protected sex whatever orientation they have. This is the right message to convey.

What are the risks of lifting bans on gay men donating blood, regardless of which country has imposed the restriction?

What you should find on official forms when you are about to donate blood are questions about your behaviors. So, I think there would be no risk at all in just asking people the right questions. What we are interested in regarding blood donation, is if the person who is about to donate went through risky behavior, and was potentially exposed to the virus in the last month.

The FDA has proposed lifting the ban early next year
This is all about asking everyone who wants to donate blood whether they recently had unprotected sex. It is up to the health officials to do this. The question should never be, "Are you gay?" The question should be, "Have you had unprotected sex in recent months?" We do not want to know who people are, we want to know what people did. There should be no other question than this.

Ivan Scalfarotto is the Italian Under Secretary of State for Constitutional Reforms and Government Liaison to Parliament. Between 2009 and 2013 he was the Deputy Chairperson of the Italian Democratic Party.

Lucia Walton conducted the interview.

December 24, 2014

FDA About to Ease Regulations on Gay Blood Donations


The Democrats in Congress and the president have been putting pressure on the FDA to come to the 21 century on gay blood donations and go not by what we knew in 1983 but what we know now. These regulations have not been changed because of bias reasons trying to still create an aura of danger around HIV persons because many would tend to be gay.

The fact is that by using blood from a straight or gay that has been testing negative and has not had unknown sex makes the blood bank no more dangerous or safe than what is been. An openly gay person who can be honest about his sexual encounters is safer than a straight that can be on the down low or have experimented but donates for reason of peer pressure at work or home. Adam

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it plans to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they have abstained from gay sex for a year.
The decision would end a lifetime ban that was put in place in 1983, during the early days of the AIDS crisis. Medical groups have said that advances in HIV testing make such a ban unnecessary, and gay rights organizations have said it perpetuates stereotypes.
The new policy would put the United States in line with Britain, Australia and Japan. The FDA said it had "carefully examined and considered the available scientific evidence," including several recently completed studies.
One gay rights organization, Gay Men's Health Crisis, immediately denounced the new policy as "offensive and harmful."
"By implementing this policy, the FDA will continue to fan the flames of the outdated stereotype that HIV is only a 'gay disease,'" the organization said. It pointed out that the policy does not require a year of celibacy from straight donors.
The FDA's questionnaire for blood donors asks men whether they have had sex with a man since 1977. In November, a panel of blood safety experts convened by the Department of Health and Human Services voted overwhelmingly in favor of doing away with the lifetime ban and moving to a one-year celibacy rule.

December 17, 2014

Democrats Push for Gay Blood Donors


Members of Congress are urging Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to end a policy instituted in 1983 that bans "men who have sex with men" from donating blood.

"If we are serious about protecting and enhancing our nation's blood supply, we must embrace science and reject outdated stereotypes," states a letter signed by 18 Democratic senators and more than 60 House members.

The letter heightens pressure on the Obama administration to end what many see as a discriminatory practice. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Tom Harkin, and Tammy Baldwin are leading the effort in the Senate and have pushed HHS before to evaluate its blood-donation policies. While the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability recommended in November that a lifetime ban was unnecessary, it still seeks to stop men from donating blood if they have engaged in a sexual encounter with another man in the last year.

Lawmakers argue those new guidelines are not enough.

"The recommendation to move to a one-year deferral policy is a step forward relative to current policies, however, such a policy still prevents many low-risk individuals from donating blood," the letter says.

Instead, lawmakers want HHS to institute a process to screen for other risk factors.

The American Medical Association, the American Red Cross, and America's Blood Centers all maintain that simply banning gay men from donating blood isn't based on science, and that it is rooted in prejudice. Lawmakers in the letter argue that it makes more sense to screen for other risk factors that make people prone to HIV infection. Those factors may be things like engaging in unprotected sex or needle sharing. Many advocates have argued that even a one-year ban still doesn't change the practice from targeting gay men. For example, under that policy a gay man who is married or in a monogamous relationship might be at a lower risk for sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, but he still would not be able to donate blood.

"A one-year deferral policy, like a lifetime ban, is a categorical exclusion based solely on the sex of an individual's sexual partner—not his actual risk of carrying a transfusion-transmittable infection," the letter reads.

If HHS changed its policies, the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA's law school, estimated it could have a radical impact on the number of people who would be eligible to donate blood. The institute says that if the lifetime ban were completely lifted, 2.6 million men would be eligible to donate and about 130,150 men likely would do so, coming to 219,000 pints of blood a year. Getting rid of the lifetime ban and instituting a one-year ban would yield about 89,700 additional pints of blood a year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1.2 million Americans have HIV and roughly one in seven who are infected are unaware they have the virus. The agency says that gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with other men are most affected by the disease. In 2010, while they were only 4 percent of the overall population, the group represented 63 percent of all the new cases of HIV.

October 12, 2013

NI Judge Rules Gay Ban on Blood is Irrational

  • blood pack

  • Stormont's health minister did not have the power to keep an "irrational" lifetime ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland, a judge has ruled.
  • The High Court judge also found that Edwin Poots had breached the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before the Stormont Executive.
  • The Department of Health said Mr Poots would "read and consider" the verdict.
  • The complete ban, put in place during the 1980s, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.
  • It was replaced by new rules that allow blood from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago.
  • The 12-month deferral was left in place following a Government Advisory Committee report.
  • Beyond religious belief
  • It identified a much shorter period during which infection with blood-borne viruses could not be detected.
  • Importing blood from other places which do accept MSM (males who have sex with other males) donors, even in limited quantities, leaves the door open for MSM blood to do just that”
  • Mr Justice Treacy
  • High Court judge
  • Mr Poots maintained the ban in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety.
  • But a gay man granted anonymity due to his perceived vulnerability launched a judicial review challenge to Mr Poots' position on blood donation.
  • The judge heard claims that the minister had displayed apparent bias that went beyond religious beliefs and into the realms of prejudice.
  • It was revealed in court that despite the unidentified applicant's sexual orientation, he has become a born-again Christian who now disapproves of homosexual practices.
  • Attorney General John Larkin QC, the chief legal adviser to the Stormont Executive, questioned the legitimacy of the challenge.
  • He claimed the challenge was a waste of time because the applicant had previously had sex for money
  • Start Quote
  • The decision raises in many people's minds serious questions as to whether Edwin Poots has the ability to carry out his duties as health minister for all”
  • Maeve McLaughlin
  • Stormont health committee chairwoman
  • Mr Larkin rejected arguments that the issue required full executive approval and questioned whether the minister had made a decision to maintain the current ban.
  • However, the judge said that in continuing the lifetime deferral policy the minister had deviated from the position taken in England, Scotland and Wales.
  • 'Defect in reason'
  • He said the decision was made against the secretary of state's recommendation that the report from the advisory committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) should be followed.
  • The judge held that the additional risk from deferring donation for 12 months, instead of permanently, was very minimal.
  • He said: "The minister has decided that MSM (males who have sex with other males) behaviour creates such a high risk of infection to the donor that such donors must be permanently deferred with the result that such blood cannot enter the Northern Ireland blood stock
  • Start Quote
  • We will consider the potential implications of this judgement on UK blood policy”
  • UK Department of Health statement
  • "Importing blood from other places which do accept MSM donors, even in limited quantities, leaves the door open for MSM blood to do just that.
  • "There is clearly a defect in reason here."
  • Applying different standards to imported blood defeats the whole purpose of a permanent deferral, he added.
  • Declaring the decision irrational, he said: "If there is a genuine concern about the safety of MSM-donated blood, such that the blood stock must be protected absolutely from such blood, then the security of that blood must actually be maintained absolutely."
  • Dealing with the alleged breach of the ministerial code, the judge said the lifetime ban was both controversial and cross-cutting, taking in equality issues.
  • "As such the minister had no authority to act without bringing them to the attention of the Executive Committee which he failed to do.
  • "In doing so the minister breached the ministerial code and... had no legal authority to take a decision in breach of the ministerial code."
  • _70430924_health_minister_edwin_poots_announced_'baby_bug'_inquiry_004.jpg
  • The Department of Health said minister Edwin Poots would read and consider the verdict
  • In response to the judgement, a spokesperson for UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We will consider the potential implications of this judgement on UK blood policy."
  • Sinn Féin assembly member Maeve McLaughlin, who is currently the chair of Stormont's health committee, said: "The decision raises in many people's minds serious questions as to whether Edwin Poots has the ability to carry out his duties as health minister for all."
  • She added: "It goes without saying that we need to have robust screening of blood, whoever it comes from. Discriminating against people from within our community who are prepared to give blood, which would be used to save lives, needs to be reversed immediately."
  • Alliance Party health spokesman Kieran McCarthy said the DUP MP's position as health minister had been "seriously compromised" and he should "consider his position".
  • "He has been badly advised and now has serious questions to answer. Not only has he wasted public funds, but he also acted to prejudice one section of society in Northern Ireland," he said.
  • John O'Doherty of the Rainbow Project, a gay advocacy organisation, said: "This ruling is a shocking indictment of the conduct of Minister Poots, who has proven himself incapable of separating his personal prejudices from his public responsibilities 
  • BBC 

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