Jewish World Review Sept. 18, 2000/ 17 Elul, 5760
the blood supply
An advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration actually considered whether to change federal regulations to allow homosexual and bisexual men to donate blood to blood banks, even though homosexual and bisexual men make up the majority of Americans infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS. Italics definitely mine.
Sanity prevailed on the committee, but only by a single vote. There's no medical reason to make such a radical and medically risky change, since there's no shortage of blood acute enough to justify the increased risk of spreading AIDS.
But election-year politics is at stake, and the FDA, an agency presided over by Welfare Secretary Donna Shalala, still must make a final decision.
Gay-pride activists argue that to continue the current practice of shunning blood suspected of HIV-contamination "discriminates" against homosexual and bisexual men. The American Red Cross, which collects more blood than any other organization, thinks such a change would be looney, though Red Cross spokesmen naturally wouldn't say it quite that way.
Since the feelings of some homosexuals are hurt, it's better, or at least more politic in the current climate, to risk spreading AIDS to innocent men, women and children — and to uninfected homosexual men — than to risk hurting the feelings of an important Democratic constituency.
Homosexual men are not the only prospective donors who are prohibited from giving (or selling) blood. Druggies who pop an intravenous fix, and even those who used to do that but no longer do, are shunned, too. So are hemophiliacs who have used clotting concentrates made from blood. So is anyone who has lived in or visited anyone in Nigeria, Cameroon and six other sub-Saharan African nations. But nobody has so far suggested relaxing the ban on their blood. We may have a serious civil-rights violation here. Hate crime, anyone?
The blood banks promise to take certain precautions, of course. Such homosexual donors would have to say they have not had sexual relations with other men for at least a year, and since everyone knows that nobody ever lies about sex, that presumably should satisfy the FDA and the blood banks.
"We think this is fair, since there are new tests that detect infectious diseases earlier," says a spokesman for the blood banks. One test in routine use at blood banks today can detect the presence of HIV 16 days after infection. Another test already in use at some blood banks can detect HIV's genetic material 8 to 12 days after infection. "Our highest priority is to enhance the safety and availability of blood," she says. "We believe this change would not compromise that." Well, not unless you're luckless enough to get the blood of an infected homosexual who donated blood within that 8-, 12- or 16-day window before the tests could detect it. If that happens, well, shut up and remember that life is unfair.
Many doctors, who have responsibilities to specific patients, don't trust the blood supply now. You could ask a candidate for surgery who has been urged to stockpile his or her own blood in advance of the cut.
"Some of the questions they ask are fairly blunt," one such surgical candidate says. "What kind of sexual activity I've had in the past few months, even whether I had sold or bought sex. I felt sorry for the nurse asking me the questions, having to treat me as if I might have been a part-time hooker."
Mark Leno, a county supervisor in San Francisco, complains that the current policy of caution is bad because it focuses on homosexual men, who are most likely to be infected with HIV, and doesn't take into account heterosexuals, who are not likely to be infected with HIV.
"There continues to be a lot of misunderstanding and concern on the public's part," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The safety of the public blood supply is extremely important." Just not as important as the self-esteem of his constituents.
Mr. Leno is wrong. There's very little misunderstanding on
the public's part. The public, despite the earnest exertions and
exhortations of the homosexual lobby and its eager sopranos
and contraltos in the media chorus, understand that AIDS is
almost altogether a disease of homosexuals and druggies, and
most of the so-called heterosexual-AIDS sufferers are
women who, for miserable reasons of their own, live with
infected druggies and are on the receiving end of love where
most of us sit down. Two decades of frantic propaganda to
persuade everyone otherwise has not worked, and won't
work, because the hard facts speak in such loud, clear
09/14/00: Al sets out to find his 'tolerance level'