Bloody hell: Feds to let ‘gays’ donate blood?

By Bob Unruh

 

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Federal advisory board officials this week are considering whether or not to recommend to the full Food and Drug Administration a change in policy that would allow some homosexual men to donate blood.

It would be a reversal of a policy that has been in effect for the last three decades because of the risk of HIV or AIDS.

The proposal comes even asthe FDA itself notes that the incidence of HIV infection is rising in that segment of the population.

“The HIV Incidence report recently published by CDC shows that, while the incidence of new HIV infection in most U.S. general population subsets (such as females) is stable or falling each year, the incidence of new HIV infection among MSM [men who have sex with men] has been rising. Comparing 2008 to 2010, the number of new HIV infections among MSM increased 12 percent, with a 22 percent increase among MSM aged 13-24. Although MSM represent about 7 percent of the male population in the United States, in 2010 MSM accounted for 78 percent of the new HIV infections among males,” the FDA’s website explains.

The proposal to allow some homosexuals to donate blood was endorsed by a Department of Health and Human Services blood safety advisory panel in a 16-2 vote last month.

The Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability urged the FDA to change the policy to allow men who have sex with men to donate blood if they say they have had no sexual contact with a man for one year.

The recommendation was put before another FDA panel, the Blood Products Advisory Committee, on Tuesday, although there’s no indication when a decision would be made on what to recommend to the FDA.

But one critic of the proposed change spoke to the committee.

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, urged the committee not to recommend a change.

“I urge you to oppose any change in the current lifetime deferral as blood donors of men who have had sex with men, unless it can be scientifically proven that a revised policy would result in no increase in risk to the blood supply. Even a small increase in risk is unacceptable,” he said.

He noted what the Centers for Disease Control reported only months ago: “Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men represent approximately 2 percent of the United States population, yet … (i)n 2010, gay and bisexual men accounted for 63 percent of estimated new HIV infections in the United States and 78 percent of infections among all newly infected men.”

Sprigg noted the FDA website says a revised policy would have to identify a subset of homosexuals “who do not still have a substantially increased rate of HIV infection compared to the general population or currently accepted blood donors.”

He said the “very small size of this population means that any potential benefit to the quantity of blood supplies would be marginal.”

“Claims, like that of one group, that such a policy change ‘could be used to help save the lives of more than 1.8 million people’ give the impression that currently 1.8 million Americans per year die due to the current policy. This is completely false,” Sprigg said.

“Political and social considerations should play no role in your advice or decision-making on this issue. It should instead be based first, last, and only upon your obligation to maximize the protection of public health,” Sprigg concluded.

Listen to his comments:

[jwplayer WvfV5MIK]

The Guardian of London reported the decision on the recommendation is expected this week.

The report said the currently “excluded population is at an increased risk for HIV, Hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by blood.”

It said the FDA panel “is under no obligation to adopt” the change proposed by the HHS committee.

“If the FDA approves the rule change, only gay men who have been abstinent for one year will be permitted to donate blood,” it noted. “Put another way, any man who has had sex with another man in the past 12 months, regardless of whether the pair is in a committed relationship or practices safe sex, will be barred from donating blood.”

WND reported recently that the momentum in the fight appears to be favoring the homosexual activists, essentially because of the recent HHS panel recommendation.

But critics have cited the tens of thousands of blood transfusion recipients who have became infected from contaminated blood. The hemophiliac community, whose members require transfusions, was especially hard hit in the 1980s, with more than 10,000 people infected with HIV or Hepatitis C, and many dying as a result.

“Over 50 percent of the people with hemophilia were infected with HIV and 90 percent were infected with Hepatitis C,” said John Indence, vice president for marketing and communications at the National Hemophilia Foundation.

“We are completely for anything that will increase the safety of the blood supply here in the United States,” Indence said. “We just believe that it needs to be based on science and not a political decision.”

Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth said: “It’s all about politics. It’s all about [homosexuals’] own selfish need to be affirmed in an immoral and dangerous lifestyle.”

Read WND’s report in which Sen. John Kerry says, “Not a single piece of scientific evidence supports” a ban on homosexuals donating blood.

The FDA’s rule excluding men who have sex with men from giving blood was first published in 1983 but not implemented until 1985 due to strong resistance from blood bankers and homosexual groups. Some 35,000 people were infected in the interim, according to a 2006 Frontline report.

The late journalist Randy Shilts chronicles in his book “And the Band Played On” how inertia, disbelief, cost concerns and civil rights rhetoric all slowed the implementation of public health measures to protect the blood supply.

By early 1983, there were reports of two possible blood transfusion-related AIDS infections, one of a baby and three cases of apparent AIDS infections in hemophiliacs who received blood clotting factors. Despite that, blood bankers were unconvinced.

“The evidence for this is, in my view, very weak and very early,” Joseph Bove, M.D., an officer with the American Association of Blood Banks (now AABB), and chairman of the FDA’s Blood Products Advisory Committee, said at the time. “We don’t really have any proof yet that the nation’s blood supply is contaminated.”

That stance sparked a sharp reaction from CDC epidemiologist Don Francis when public health officials, blood bankers and representatives from the homosexual community gathered in Atlanta in January 1983 to address the risk to the blood supply.

“How many people have to die?” Francis shouted at the meeting, according to Shilts.

Speaking to representatives from the American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, the National Hemophilia Foundation, the National Gay Task Force, the National Institutes of Health, and the FDA, Francis bore down.

“How many deaths do you need?” he asked. “Give us the threshold of death that you need in order to believe that this is happening, and we’ll meet at that time and we can start doing something.”

 

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