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Give Life, Give Blood (As long as you're not gay.)
In 2007 a gay man that is HIV negative still cannot give blood in America's blood donations centers simply because he has had sex with another man. This has nothing to do with disease control or science. In most cases, HIV/AIDS testing has become accurate enough to detect antibodies to the HIV virus in the bloodstream within weeks of exposure. In nearly all cases antibodies are detectable within six months from time of exposure. Setting the standard for blood donations by gay men based on realistic criteria rather than the arcane question of whether they have had sex with another man (protected vs. unprotected is not even asked) since 1977 should be made policy immediately at the nation's blood banks.
In a recent response to an inquiry by a visitor to "The Body", an HIV/AIDS advocacy website, the reply to how long it takes for an HIV test to read positive after exposure was as follows:
(HIV)"Antibody tests have been reported to be positive within 4 weeks. My guesstimate would be that 80-90% and 95-98% would be antibody positive by 2 and 3 months respectively." - Mark Holodniy, M.D., F.A.C.P., C.I.C.*
With that knowledge in hand, it seems reasonable that blood centers could accept blood donations from gay men once they’ve determined that they have not had unprotected sex within the last six months or if they have been in a committed relationship with a single partner in the same timeframe. For that matter, why are they not simply asking potential donors if they have had unprotected sex in the last six months period and leaving it at that? Why is it only gay men that are singled out? Is it promoting safety or merely homophobia? Here are the criteria for unacceptable sexual history from the Blood Centers of the Pacific website:
You are a man who has had sex with another man since 1977
You have engaged in sex for money or drugs since 1977.
While organizations such as the Red Cross add even more discriminatory conditions on blood donations based on sexual history those two basic conditions seem to be universal to all of the organizations asking for blood donations.
Pretty much everyone that has not been under a rock for the last decade should understand that HIV/AIDS is not a "gay" disease. Health professionals such as blood bank staff members above all should know the realities of the risks and make policies that don't exclude potentially valuable donors. With blood donations often critically low, how can we afford to exclude willing donors that pose no real risk to the safety of the blood supply?
If you really want to be completely safe when receiving blood, you need to have your doctor draw and store your blood prior to a surgery. That is the only way to assure that the blood you receive has nothing in it that is not in your bloodstream already.(Assuming that nothing happens in the hospital to contaminate it.) Other than that, if little heterosexual Johnny decided to mess around and didn't tell his girlfriend little Sally, little Sally's blood just might be infected. Are we going to start taking sexual partner histories every time people donate blood? Probably not. If not, we should take only the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the diseases that the policies were put in place to prevent.
Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer - E-mail Comments on this article.
*Mark Holodniy, M.D. is a professor of medicine at Stanford University, Stanford, CA. He is director of the HIV Clinical Program and Public Health Research Center at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA.
Incompetence, Cover-Up or Recruiting Drive?
With the details of the investigation into the mishandling of the “friendly-fire” death of former Arizona Cardinal player Pat Tillman coming to light, it seems that there may be elements within our military willing to say or do anything to keep from giving the government a black eye.
On Monday investigators released findings from their two-year investigation into the handling of the death of Pat Tillman by the U.S. Army. The findings from the different teams investigating the incident and its handling have somewhat different conclusions but are united in their assertion that it was handled poorly at best. While the Army’s investigator found no criminal conduct evident, the investigator for the Defense Department was less positive on that front. The Defense Department investigator Thomas Gimble said that the Army officers involved “had no reasonable explanation” for why “friendly fire” as a potential cause of Tillman’s death was not revealed when it first became known that it was a possibility.
Tillman family members, already angered by the leaking of the investigation results to the press prior to the family being informed, were briefed on the findings of the investigations at an undisclosed location in San Jose, CA on Monday and said that the report was “unsatisfactory”. They further stated that they felt as if their family had been used as “props…in a public relations exercise”. The Tillman family has been critical of the handling of this investigation from the time it became known that their son, husband and brother was killed by “friendly fire”. These latest revelations have seemingly only strengthened their dissatisfaction with the handling of his death by the Army.
Whether the investigation was mishandled accidentally or the cause of Tillman's death was deliberately covered up initially is still not completely clear. It does present the appearance to the casual observer of the Army going out of their way to minimize the details of the shooting in order to paint military service in a more positive light and take some advantage of the notoriety of Tillman. By issuing a Silver Star for the first time ever to a soldier killed by “friendly fire” and hailing him as a hero who died valiantly fighting the enemy, the military effectively turned a potential PR disaster into a recruitment tool at least for a time.
Using images of Tillman as the American ideal of selfless service and hailing his tragic death as a combat loss to the evil enemy, the Army had a poster boy for the honor of military service and sacrifice for one’s country. That they chose to use that image instead of presenting the actual facts of the situation has to raise some questions about the motives behind their actions in this case. In an apparent effort to both cover up an honest and not-uncommon mistake and to capitalize on the tragic loss of a soldier through deception of both that soldier’s family and the American public the Army has managed to shake not only the family’s but the entire nation’s faith in their integrity.
The Army has said that the officers involved will be held accountable but there has not been any indication as to what their punishments will be for the handling of this incident. One thing is certain, as more and more evidence comes to light, the military personnel involved in handling the reporting of the death of Pat Tillman and those responsible for subsequent official actions taken in the public arena to memorialize him will have some explaining to do to the American people if they want to regain people's trust in the integrity of the military.
Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer- E-mail your comments about this article.