Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Only in Some of you to Give

Every time I donate blood, I am stymied by the requirements that seem to be arbitrarily placed to weed the unwashed masses into "good blood" and "bad blood" (there appears to be no categories for "mudbloods" though). One time, as I was enjoying my cookie, I was approached by a volunteer, who was concerned about the yellow mark on my arm around the needle site; I reassured him that it was just the Iodine they used, and asked whether he had donated before. He vouchsafed that he had not, and for some ridiculous reason, I decided to guess why he couldn't (Nothing more fun that trying to determine if someone has AIDS or an S.T.I). I struggled for a while, and he prompted me that it started with a "G", but was not Gonorrhea. I still cringe when I recall how I blurted out "Oh! You are GAY!" Until that point I was aware of the question on the survey "Have you had sex, even one time, with a man since 1977?" (for men, obviously; for women the question asked if you had sex with a man who had sex, even one time, with a man since 1977) but it had failed to actualize for me; it was still some nebulous concept that somewhere, maybe, I guess, people were unable to donate because of who they slept with. But this volunteer solidified it for me.

The aim of the ban is to limit the chances that tainted blood will be given to those in need, and so risky activities are eliminated such as travel to some countries of a certain duration, intravenous drug usage, and certain medical procedures or illnesses. This is all a gamble. There is no 100%  certain way to test for HIV/AIDS (The nihilist in me is yelling that there is no 100% test for anything) and even one case could be devastating, so def con level four procedures are  put into place to eliminate anything that even smells risky.

The problem is that this policy represents old societal beliefs, and may be ignoring the greater risk factor inherent in heterosexuals having unprotected sex. In 1993 a study confirmed that although there were more homosexual men with HIV/AIDS, their transmission rate was dropping, while the rate among heterosexual men was rising. A study from 1996 of 96 major metropolitan American cities echoed the same findings that although gay and bisexual men have the highest prevalence, they are a much lower risk for transmission than are heterosexuals. There is also the factor that transmission rates from an infected person to a non-infected person are much higher for a man to a woman than any other combination.

A representative of the Canadian Hemophiliac society, David Page, went on record saying that the problem was not HIV/AIDS, but any generalized sexual infection, which he stated have been known to circulate first in the gay community, which is a trend I was unaware of. The trend I was aware of is the discriminatory belief that homosexuals are "dirty" by virtue of the fact that they have sex. My subsequent research revealed one disease that presented in homosexual men, Lymphogranuloma venereum, which causes one to wonder why, then, the medical community is not freaking out because presumably the rest arise from heterosexual sex.

Even as cautious as I am about diseases and such things, I would completely agree with the Canadian Blood services exchanging the old rule about no gay men to one involving no unprotected sex, since if they are genuinely concerned about STIs, this would lower the risk to almost negligible, and consistent condom use has been shown to be effective in reducing transmission of all diseases. Let us put this antiquated notion to bed, and save some lives.


Anonymous said...

I think you have a really good idea about "no unprotected sex."
I do think you miss the point, though, when you talk about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and the transmission rate. The transmission rate among heterosexuals as opposed to the transmission rate among homosexuals makes no difference to the current risk factor, as the transmission rate from actually getting tainted blood is the same no matter where the blood comes from. The risk factor depends only on how prevalent the disease is.
On a different note, I would be concerned about a volunteer who didn't recognize the colour of iodine. Unless it was his first day, that's just a little strange.
lol, mapa

Miss Ernst said...

I consider the transmission rate relevant only when considering how likely it is that someone would have contracted the disease without being aware of it, i.e. how fast the disease is moving through people before symptoms can be shown.

As far as I recall about the Iodine thingy it was either his first day, or they had recently changed the Iodine color/protocol so he was not as familiar with it. I mostly blocked that whole day out of my memory; once you holler "YOU'RE GAAAAAY!!!" at some poor hapless volunteer, there is no going back. X /