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Comment: The need to reform gay blood donation is as pressing as ever

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  1. Very fair comment.

    The most scientific and honest way to protect the blood supply is on the basis of risk – and orientation is not a risk, behaviour is.

    The experience of Spain, Italy, Latvia, Poland and others have shown that the blood supply is safer when the risks are assessed on a behaviour basis rather than orientation based blanket bans.

  2. Spanner1960 3 Aug 2012, 10:40pm

    The most scientific and honest way to protect the blood bank is on statistical proof.

    People continue to spout claims of “homophobic bias” and statement that behaviour outweighs demographic, yet the the facts prove that this continues to be not the case.

    The epidemic continues to grow in one population in all countries: men who have sex with men. Some countries, including the US, Spain, Chile, Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa and some African and Caribbean nations, record HIV prevalence in this group at 15 per cent or higher. Worldwide, gay black men are 15 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the rest of the population; in the UK they are 111 times more likely. Gay men remain most at risk of contracting HIV in the UK with one in 20 testing positive, compared with one in 900 of the population as a whole.

    Until such time as a proven test to recognise the infection before the usable shelf life of the donated blood expires, there is NO guarantee.

    1. Spanner1960 3 Aug 2012, 10:49pm

      Nobody more than me would wish this situation otherwise, but that fact remains gay men are an incredibly high risk group; so until such time as tests can guarantee with certainty that blood donations are HIV free, then precautions have to be taken.

      Other high risk groups such as sub-Saharan Africans should also be eliminated. Broad demographic restrictions have to be utilised in order to prevent high percentages. Of course there are going to be those that fall through the net that would be perfectly acceptable, but we do not have that luxury. If it means all gay men are prevented from donating in order to stop a single infection through blood donation, then the ends justify the means.

      1. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 4 Aug 2012, 4:07pm

        Lovely. Could you explain the sense in banning me from giving blood because my partner had a boyfriend ten years ago, but not him? And why no one is ever assessed in terms of number of sexual partners, type of sexual act or condom usage?

        1. Spanner1960 4 Aug 2012, 5:20pm

          Simply because one has to judge by demographic, not individual cases; Over half the HIV+ gay men in UK are unaware they are infected. On top of that, it is possible to contract the disease even without penetrative sex or when using a condom. That is why the term safer sex is used, commonly misquoted a ‘safe’.

          1. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 4 Aug 2012, 6:34pm

            You didn’t answer the question about why women with bisexual male partners are banned for far longer than the bisexual men are.

            And while demographics are an important part of calculating someone’s risk, they are not the only way of doing so. If you compare two men who have both had sex with ten partners, an equal amount of protected and unprotected sex, and one of those men has only slept with men while the other has slept with women, then yes, the man who has slept with men is higher-risk. But if you take a man who has had sex with a hundred women without a condom in sight, vs. a man who has had two long-term male sexual partners and used condoms consistently for both, then the relative level of risk changes. At the very least, the first man in that scenario needs to be flagged up as higher-risk.

            Agreed on using the term “safer” rather than “safe”.

            It shouldn’t be that difficult to construct a way of assessing people more accurately for their sexual risks. Other countries do.

          2. Spanner1960 4 Aug 2012, 6:57pm

            I’m sorry, I didn’t quite the get the jist of your question.
            I would say that was a pretty unfair scenario. The point is that the ban includes men who have sex with men (MSM) and their partners – their gender is irrelevant.

            Your comparison is naive; gay men have considerably more opportunity for sex than their straight counterparts. There may be a handful of straight men that may get that many women, but not many. That combined with anal sex rather than vaginal also increases the risk factor manyfold.

          3. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 4 Aug 2012, 7:40pm

            It’s not naive – I’m talking about individuals rather than groups. As for anal sex being higher-risk than vaginal sex, there are plenty of mixed-sex couples having anal sex out there. I’m not saying we should ignore sexual orientation when assessing HIV risk. I’m saying that it should be part of a more complicated system which also includes number of partners, type of sex act and whether condoms were used (and no, I don’t think condoms are perfect either, but they provably reduce risks). There may be a relatively smaller number of gay men at low risk than straight men, but why should they be unfairly excluded? And more to the point, why should the high-risk straight men be let through without proper screening?

            I think you’re also underestimating the amount of casual sex in the straight community these days. It exists, it’s common, it’s socially acceptable. In addition, far too many straight people still think HIV is a gay problem only, and thus take greater risks.

        2. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 4 Aug 2012, 7:47pm

          You’re wrong about MSM and their partners being equally prohibited. They’re not. A MSM is allowed to donate as long as he hasn’t had sex with another man in the past year. A woman who sleeps with a MSM is prohibited for up to a year after last sleeping with that man, even if he’s been allowed to donate for years because he last slept with a man years ago. Does that make sense?

          Here’s an example, from people I know well (names are changed). Peter is bisexual, and when he is 19, he has a short relationship with Nick. When he is 23, Peter gets together with Lucy. Six years on, Peter and Lucy are still together, and everyone involved in these relationships has been monogamous. Under the old rules, Peter was subject to a lifetime ban. Now, Peter will be able to donate blood after the age of 20, so at present he is allowed to donate blood. Lucy, however, is forbidden to donate blood while she is with Peter, and if they break up, for the next year. How is this fair?

          1. The article is wrong about female partners of MSM always being prohibited. This issue is mentioned in the FAQ on the NBS website. Female partners of MSM *can* donate once tests have shown their partner has no infections and provided no further MSM activity has occurred.

        3. Spanner1960 5 Aug 2012, 10:48am

          You still don’t get it.
          The constant argument that straight people can be promiscuous or have anal sex is just a straw man argument, it still doesn’t justify the statistical evidence:
          Gay men on average have more sexual partners than their straight counterparts. Fact. Gay men only have anal sex. Fact.
          Gay men are 111 times more likely to contract HIV than their straight counterparts. Fact.

          Please stop using these ridiculous “they do it so why can’t we?” arguments. I am well aware it is not fair, but that still doesn’t justify allowing gay men to donate blood.

          1. really? really? My straight friends have had sex with a lot more people and never been tested so they actually have no idea if they are infected or not – I have been tested recently and at the time of the test I was negative. My friends are higher risk then myself because they have never been tested

  3. Here is a great article explaining why blood donation should be dealt with on a risk basis – not a prejudgement based on orientation!

    http://www.yalemedlaw.com/2010/10/why-blood-donation-restrictions-should-be-based-upon-sexual-behavior-not-sexual-preference/

    1. Spanner1960 4 Aug 2012, 9:04am

      “Nevertheless, to exclude an individual based solely upon his/her sexual orientation at a federal level is discrimination and goes against the rights we fundamentally stand for as a liberal, democratic society. The safety of the blood supply needs to be the top priority, but that does not mean that such classification is required to achieve this goal.”

      Sounds way too “touchy-feely” to me.
      This is not a scientific presentation, it is simply a personal opinion.
      They have directly avoided to mention precisely HOW the HIV virus is supposed to be tested for, and the methods currently utilised for screening.
      Restriction of donor based on demographic is *part* of the screening process, and so far I have not heard a single viable alternative.

  4. Christopher 4 Aug 2012, 4:28pm

    If they can test for HIV in minutes with a cheek swab, then the blood supply has every reason to be safe.

    There is no way anyone can verify anything said on donation day – a person could go in a lie up a storm about his or her chaste sexual past.

    1. Spanner1960 4 Aug 2012, 5:16pm

      Firstly, they don’t detect using the same methods.
      Secondly, cheek swabs can state you have HIV, but not that you haven’t.
      The virus can lay dormant and virtually undetectable for some time. Anybody that has ever had an HIV test will tell you that you have to return in 3-4 weeks to confirm you are clear. Donated blood lasts only a matter of days, so by the time any accurate test has been made, the blood would be useless.

    2. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 4 Aug 2012, 6:52pm

      This is part of the problem – people do lie about their sexual history at present. I’ve met a number of gay men who simply lie because they don’t feel that they are high risk and would like to donate blood. The extremist nature of the current screening process encourages this sort of behaviour, sadly.

      1. Spanner1960 5 Aug 2012, 10:44am

        That is precisely why it should remain in place.
        Do you think people would stop lying if MSM’s were allowed to donate?
        Of course not. It is simply one additional step to help prevent infection, but a very important one.

      2. Shamem on them, then. I mean since when did simply liking to do a thing necome a right?
        By the same token, very high risk peole will also lie, and God help us all!

  5. Dennis Velco 4 Aug 2012, 11:14pm

    Thanks for this article and your reporting. What you do is appreciated.

    I posted it to my LGBT Group on LinkedIn to spur members to read your article and to make comment. I also scooped it at Scoop.It on my LGBT Times news mashup.

    Link to group >> http://www.linkedin.com/groups/LGBT-Gay-GLBT-Professional-Network-63687/about

    All LGBT+ and community allies…. please come join me and 15,000+ of your soon to be great connections on LinkedIn. The member base represents 80% of the world’s countries. As well as the down stream in my LInkedIn personal connections that reach over 24 million potential live stream viewers on LinkedIn alone.

    The group is strictly professional office friendly dialog, posting and profiles / profile images. I’ve been told by many that it may well be one of the best run / managed groups on LinkedIn.

    You can be as out or private as you like and I provide instructions on how to set those preferences.

    1. Spanner1960 5 Aug 2012, 10:50am

      Oh please piss off spamming this website. We don’t need you.

  6. I’m a blood and platelet donor and every time I have to fill out their form it makes me so sad to see the “Have you ever had unprotected sex with a man who has previously had unprotected sex with another man” question.

    All blood is totally cleared and screened anyway after it has been donated. It should make no difference whatsoever whether you’re gay or not.

    If you want to help save lives, you should be allowed to.

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