Dustin Siggins

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Federal government considering letting gay men donate blood

Dustin Siggins
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WASHINGTON, D.C., December 5, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The federal government is considering changing its lifetime ban regarding blood donations from sexually active homosexuals.

The news comes less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that in 48 states men who have sex with men (MSM) represent the majority of HIV/AIDS sufferers.

Today members of the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability will be hearing seven presentations on the issue. The committee declined to change the policy in 2010.

Existing policy bars men who have had sex with another man at least once since 1977 from donating blood for life, due to the high risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS. Other countries, such as Spain and Italy, have lifted their bans. Australia, Brazil, Japan, and Britain have a one-year deferral after sex. Canada has a five-year deferral policy.

The nation's major blood bank organizations – the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), American Red Cross, and America's Blood Centers – have publicly supported changing the policy to a one-year deferral after men have sex with other men.

Dr. Steven Kleinman, senior medical adviser at AABB, told LifeSiteNews.com that his organization supports changing current policy to a one-year deferral, because “current testing catches the vast majority of HIV/AIDS-infected blood.”

Kleinman told LifeSiteNews.com that “current testing is highly accurate and has reduced the risk of HIV/AIDS to less than one in a million units that are given to patients.”

“The only cases where testing doesn't catch the infection is when a donor is in the very earliest stages of HIV infection, when the amount of virus is so small the testing cannot detect it,” he said.

Male homosexual sex is still the most common way for people to get HIV/AIDS. An August 2013 graphic from the CDC highlights that men having homosexual sex account for 52 percent of all Americans with AIDS and 63 percent of new infections..

The CDC report noted that there was a 12 percent increase in MSM with HIV/AIDS between 2008 and 2010, especially among young men. Anal sex without condoms among gay men rose 20 percent between 2005 and 2011.

Americans for Truth About Homosexuality President Peter LaBarbera told LifeSiteNews.com that lifting the ban “is public policy madness.”

“Rather than deal with the elephant in the room – actual homosexual conduct itself, which should be discouraged as a health hazard – politicians and bureaucratic elites, pressured by LGBT activists, are considering lifting the ban on homosexual blood donations,” he said.

LaBarbera also said homosexual activists put their desire to suppress all opposition to homosexuality, “in this case, giving blood, above the best interests of society and youth.”

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He pointed to CDC data showing approximately 94 percent of males aged 13-24 with HIV/AIDS got it by having sex with other men.

“Government properly discourages smoking,” LaBarbera told LifeSiteNews. “Government should also take actions to discourage homosexual behavior...to protect the public and homosexual men themselves.”

But homosexual activists say not only should the government change its rules, but that a one-year deferral is not enough.

Gay public relations expert Bob Witeck – who is openly homosexual and the CEO of Witeck Communications – said the ban should be lifted entirely. In e-mails to LifeSiteNews.com, Witeck said the ban is “outdated and must surely go. The FDA uses multiple layers of safeguards to ensure blood safety by screening all blood donors based on risk factors and signs of infection.”

“Many gay men, like me, have been donors in the past, and would like to support our communities, neighbors, families, and friends with life-sustaining blood supplies,” Witeck told LifeSiteNews.

The testing of blood for HIV/AIDS has been a key factor in the argument for lifting the ban. Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) is used in testing for all blood donations, and according to NBC News is used in combination with antibody tests to find eight different diseases: HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B and C, West Nile virus, Chagas disease, and syphilis, and in some cases cytomegalovirus (CMV).

When the ban was implemented, NAT testing did not exist, and HIV-infected blood infected many hemophiliacs. One of them was Ryan White, who was infected at the age of 13 and died one month before he graduated high school. White became a national figure because of his fight to attend school while ill.

Activists for lifting the FDA's ban have used White and other famous figures who have had HIV/AIDS for reasons unrelated to homosexual relations – such as former tennis star and hemophiliac Arthur Ashe and former basketball star and philanderer Magic Johnson – as evidence that the HIV/AIDS affects communities outside of gay men.

According to Witeck, “NAT testing has changed everything since the 1970s and 1980s.”

Kleinman said a one-year ban “would mean the number of gay men giving blood would not rise significantly,” because most gay men having sex are doing so within the one-year window, “though some college students protesting the current policy may give blood more often.”

Men having sex with men are not the only subset of Americans who are not allowed to give blood for life. Intravenous drug users, leukemia or lymphoma sufferers, and people born in England during certain years are barred for life from giving blood by the Red Cross. The ban on British blood is because medical science does not allow for testing of the human version of Mad Cow Disease. MSM differs from this case slightly, because testing does catch HIV/AIDS. Another difference is being born in England is not chosen, whereas engaging in sexual relations is a distinct choice in all cases except for rape.

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, testified at today's hearings that the safety of the blood supply should trump homosexuals' feelings of ostracism.

"No reasonable concept of social justice requires expanding the pool of potential blood donors,” he said.

“On the contrary, social justice requires that only the needs of potential blood recipients be considered at all; and it requires that national policy ensure the maximum level of safety that is consistent with maintaining an adequate blood supply,” he concluded. 

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