Friday, March 5, 2010

Senators Look To End Ban On Gay Blood Donations

Here's a piece of legislation that Republicans should get behind. It has been illegal for a man to donate blood if he has had gay sex since 1977 (the law was passed in 1983 but extended retroactvely six years). This isn't 1977. In 2010 (and really, for years now) we can successfully screen blood for HIV and other blood-bourne pathogens. In a country where blood banks are going begging, there isn't a good scientific reason to turn people who want to donate useable, untatined blood.

The lawmakers stressed that the science has changed dramatically since the ban was established in 1983 at the advent of the HIV-AIDS crisis. Today donated blood must undergo two different, highly accurate tests that make the risk of tainted blood entering the blood supply virtually zero, they said.

The senators said that while hospitals and emergency rooms are in urgent need of blood products, "healthy blood donors are turned away every day due to an antiquated policy and our blood supply is not necessarily any safer for it."
There is one group who is on record as supporting the current policy: advocates for those with hemophilia.

People with hemophilia, a bleeding disorder, require periodic transfusions and in the past, before screening techniques were improved to ensure blood was HIV-free, were among those most at risk of contracting the virus.
I don't want to dismiss their concerns completely. If I were in need of transfusions on an ongoing basis I might look on any perceived risk as unnecessary. But I'd like to think I'd also realize that the same screening process I trust to make sure I don't get HIV from some drug addict selling blood for dope money can be trusted to make sure I don't get it from a gay man.

(Crossposted from Say Anything)

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