Tuesday, December 02, 2014

FDA to lift gay blood ban, anti-gay right certain to pitch a fit

LaBarbera not happy with lifting of blood ban
Today promises to be very interesting with regards to a subject that for now is under the radar. But soon it won't be.

According to The Atlantic:

Today, the FDA’s Blood Products Advisory Committee is meeting to discuss potentially revising that policy. In November, the Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability recommended easing—but not lifting—the ban. It suggested a one-year deferral policy instead, under which gay men would be permitted to donate after a year of abstinence. The FDA will consider this recommendation, as well as scientific evidence on HIV blood safety, during its meeting.

Initially, gay men was banned completely from donating blood because of fears of getting blood contaminated with the HIV virus. However those who support the change point to the hypocrisy of the current policy. Earlier this year, a team of medical professionals and legal experts vouched for this change in an issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to CBS News:

 . . . changing times and technological advances have rendered the decades-old ban obsolete, said JAMA article co-author Glenn Cohen, who directs Harvard Law School's Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology & Bioethics.

"We think it's time for the FDA to take a serious look at its policy, because it's out of step with peer countries, it's out of step with modern medicine, it's out of step with public opinion, and we feel it may be legally problematic," said Cohen, who co-wrote the article with Jeremy Feigenbaum of Harvard Law School and Dr. Eli Adashi of Brown University's medical school. The lifetime ban for gay or bisexual men stands in contradiction to other FDA policies regarding people considered high-risk donors due to their sexual behavior, Cohen noted.

For example, there currently is a maximum one-year ban in the United States for blood donations by men who have had sex with an HIV-positive woman or commercial sex workers. The same goes for women who have had sex with HIV-positive men.

The article goes on to say:
Other countries have already moved to limit their bans on blood donations from gay men in recent years. Canada has changed its policy to a five-year ban, there's a one-year ban in place in the United Kingdom and a six-month ban in South Africa.

None of these countries has experienced any increase in HIV-positive blood donations, noted Dr. Steven Kleinman, a senior medical advisor to the AABB, an international non-profit blood bank association.

Current technology allows accurate detection of HIV in the bloodstream within weeks of exposure, Kleinman said. Changing the ban to six months or a year remains a conservative approach that still allows officials to prevent contamination of the blood supply, he said.

The Atlantic article also says:

 While infection rates decreased by 33 percent globally between 2001 and 2013, infection rates have stayed stable in the United States, and have actually increased among men who have sex with men, according to the most recent CDC numbers. So while gay men are still at increased risk for HIV, advances in medical technology make it much easier to test people, and their blood, for the virus now, and no matter how people answer the donor questionnaire, their blood will be tested for HIV and other diseases anyway. The risk of contracting HIV from a blood transfusion is currently about one in 2 million, according to the Red Cross.

One would think that no one could argue with these facts, but that doesn't mean folks aren't going to try. The American Family Association's One News Now published an "article" about the lifting of the blood ban. Unfortunately, it chose not to cite any medical professionals or include any medical information.

Instead, the article quoted one anti-gay activist, Peter LaBarbera:

Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality says that doesn't make sense. "First of all, HIV rates and sexually transmitted diseases are rising among homosexual-practicing men," he states. "So why would we be talking about softening the blood ban at a time when [STDs] are on the rise among men who have sex with men?"

The panel's recommendation is to allow men to donate blood if they have been abstinent for a year – a proposal supported by the American Red Cross – but LaBarbera finds it difficult to believe they would abstain.

He also stresses that lifting the ban isn't a civil rights issue and it also isn't a matter of lifting any stigma attached to homosexual behavior. "The number-one consideration for Americans is keeping the blood as safe as possible," he notes, "and to me it makes no sense [to make] it more likely that people who practice disease-producing behavior would be likely to give blood."

I might point out that LaBarbera has no background in medicine.

This should be a no-brainer, but my guess is that more members of the anti-gay right will be raising objections. We can probably count on them to raise specters of contaminated blood supplies and, if they stoop that low, of the possibility of children becoming infected with HIV because of contaminated blood.

In lieu of accurate information, fear tactics seems to work for them.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love how you put "article" in sarcastic air quotes :)