Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Fantasies Sometimes Have Hidden Costs: Blood Donations


When I had the opportunity last summer, well to be accurate, when I created the opportunity last summer to hook up with two guys at the same time, I was over the moon.  It was something I had wanted to do for a long time, and after the weeks of planning and hard work setting it up, well I am still a little speechless over how well it turned out.  I was diligent in my planning, and I screened the participants thoroughly and assessed my risks versus pleasure.  I took careful care of my body before and after to ensure I minimized any foreseen physical risks.  You cannot 100% eliminate all risk, but you can certainly ask questions and be as informed as possible about the pros and cons.

There is one aspect though that I did not even consider in the cons section and have only been made aware of it over 6 months later.  And that is ‘blood is in you to give’, unless of course you engage in high risk sexual activity.  Any and all male to male contact, even with a condom, is considered a high risk activity for the risk of HIV/AIDS, and therefore gay men are ineligible to give blood.  Also females who have any sexual contact with a partner who has had previous male to male contact are temporarily deferred from giving blood.  My little fantasy  had the unforeseen potential to temporarily blacklist me from helping others by giving blood and could have potentially blacklisted the gentlemen who were right along with me had they engaged in any contact with each other and not just maintain all their amazing focus on me...

This makes me very angry, to the point that I can pointedly say that law is created out of hate and fear and not education.  All the blood donated is tested and screened, so if it is clear of disease why should it not be used?  Many others are outraged about this as well, thus there is a change that is currently being proposed.  And that is if you do not have any male to male contact for a minimum of 5 years then you may be eligible to donate.  However it still means that gay men are not allowed to donate, even if they have been completely monogamous with the same partner for over 5 years.  The risks of transmitting AIDS/HIV is deemed too high to potentially allow into the public, even if it was a matter of life and death.

Please see below for a direct quote from Canadian Blood Services;
3. HIV High Risk Activities:
There are a number of high-risk activities for acquiring HIV/AIDS that can indefinitely defer people from giving blood. People who have taken money or drugs for sex, since 1977 cannot give blood.
All men who have had sex with another man, even once, since 1977 are indefinitely deferred. This is based on current scientific knowledge and statistical information that shows that men who have had sex with other men are at greater risk for HIV/AIDS infection than other people.
Intravenous use of illegal street drugs/narcotics also constitutes a HIV high risk activity and results in indefinite deferral.
8. HIV High Risk Activities
Being the sexual partner of someone who has participated in high risk activities (other than the sexual partner of someone who has tested positive for HIV) will result in a temporary deferral.

6 comments:

  1. This is not a law, it’s a policy based on fact and risk management. If this were truly based solely on homophobia this policy would have been done away with a few years ago.

    The facts in this case are based on what is defined as High-risk Sexual Activity, and the percentage of people who participate in said activity who contract HIV/AIDS. Although it is painted with a broad brush which would include you on the deferral list, the goal is to reduce the risk of transmitting a disease to the receiving patient to the lowest achievable level. Since detection of HIV and other diseases is not a 100% perfect science and a small bit of undetected infectivity still remains, they cannot take risks with a population where a chance of contracting an infection is high or is growing. Furthermore, although this list includes homosexual men, it doesn’t single out homosexual men, but rather expands to include people who:
    -Have injected drugs/shared needles
    -Lived in households or had sexual contact with an infected person
    -Lived outside of Canada or the US for certain periods:
    oAreas where Malaria is endemic
    oCountries where there is a risk of vCJD (variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease)
    oHaving had a blood transfusion or used a blood product while in the UK (since 1980)
    -Having been involved in transactions of money or drugs for sex (receiving or paying)
    -Being a male who has had sex with another male
    -Having had sex with a person:
    -Who has AIDS or has tested positive for HIV;
    -(Are female) and has had sex with a MSM partner;
    -Who is an injection drug user;
    -With anyone who has paid for sex.

    -Having had sex with person whose sexual background is unknown.

    -With respect to certain African countries (8 in all )
    -Being born or having lived in those countries;
    -Having had sex with someone described in (a) since 1977;
    -Having received a blood product in those countries.

    So, if it were based on hate and fear, this list wouldn’t be as comprehensive as it is, and they wouldn’t put the money they do (worldwide) into reports, research, and constantly reviewing the topic. But on the topic of homosexual men, since this is a touchy issue (as it should be, and constantly reviewed along with everything else), the facts state that among men who have sex with men (MSM):
    -Of those who have HIV/AIDS, MSM represent 55% of the population, and represented 45% of the new infections from 2002-2005
    -Of those MSM who had HIV/AIDS, 27% were unaware of the infection

    This notwithstanding, this has been highly public for the past decade and there is quite a debate to that effect. They are aware of the stigma that has been attached to this group and unfortunately cannot change their position if they consider the risk, based on fact, to be high.

    http://www.bloodservices.ca/CentreApps/Internet/UW_V502_MainEngine.nsf/resources/Reports/$file/McLaughlin_Report.pdf

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    1. This is an excellent amendment to my post, and I thank you for the thoughtful response. There is a lot of information that is available that I did neglect to point out as it had little to do with the specific point that I was making but I do encourage everyone to go the blood services website to ensure that they are eligible to donate as it is a very important service.

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    2. I agree with Anonymous that MSM taken as a group has a higher HIV infection rate than the general population. However, they could surely amend the donor prohibition to be more narrowly focused.

      Here in the USA, a man who had sexual contact with another man (including nonconsensual) in 1978, has had no subsequent sexual contact with men, and has had multiple negative HIV tests in the last 10 years, would still be completely ineligible to donate. At the same time, there is nothing in the rules that I can find (nor do I remember ever being asked about this) to prevent blood donation by someone who has sex with a different stranger every night, as long as the sex is between a man and a woman. Even by the rules for Canada that you list above, a woman could have sex with dozens of guys she knows (and whose sexual history she takes their word for) and still donate blood. This seems so clearly skewed to me that I cannot imagine any evidence-based rationale for the difference.

      In 2010, the American Red Cross made a joint statement that they "maintain our recommendation that FDA amend the indefinite deferral currently in place for a male who has had sex with another male since 1977 to a 12-month deferral. This change in policy would conform the deferral period for MSM with the deferrals for other similar high-risk sexual behavior. " (www.aabb.org/pressroom/statements/Pages/statement061510.aspx) Unfortunately, the committee of the US Dept of Health & Human Services which determines donor eligibility requirements "voted against recommending a change to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy of a lifetime deferral for men who have sex with other men." (www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-topic#lifestyle)

      This is a topic close to my heart (I am ineligible to donate because I continue to have sex with my husband, who long ago had sexual contact with another man), and I continue to press for sound evidence-based rules on deferral of blood donors.

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    3. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I hope with more education that the rules on deferral begin to change a little quicker as well.

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  2. touche and touchy! maybe a bit more detail about the 3sum next time???? i do envy you!

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    1. I have toyed with the idea of writing about my very fun threesome, however I am always unsure how it would come across, and if any of the people who know me personally could still make eye contact with me :)

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