CNN reported yesterday on the ongoing deferral of blood donation by men who have sex with other men—“MSM” in the blood business. The deferral has been in effect for a few decades now and stemmed from the early prevalence of AIDS in the gay community. If you are a blood donor, you will see questions on the screening form asking if you fall into this or other “risk” categories which include IV drug use, sex-for-money, sub-Saharan Africa travel, etc.
Apparently, there are those who advocate for the LGBT community who believe that education, behavioral changes, and improved screening protocols negate the concern over possible blood-borne virus transmission of HIV. Here’s the rub: There is no question that same-sex relationships can contribute to the spread of HIV. There is no question that HIV can lead to serious health consequences for those who become infected. And there is no question as to the history of tranfusion-related infections and subsequent deaths. Ryan White is perhaps the best-known case. While it’s been 22 years since his death, the possible transmission of HIV has been enough to cause an ongoing deferral of gay donors.
I served in the military for 16-plus years, being willing to shed my blood in defense of this nation. That military service took me to England for two and a half years (1983-1985) and Germany for two and a half years (1985-1987)—or five years total. The standard is to have been in the UK for “three months” or more or in Europe for five years or more. Because of this, I can no longer donate blood. You see, the powers-that-be think that my blood may contain a contagion that could transmit Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a degenerative disease of the brain similar to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or “Mad Cow Disease”. And there is no blood test for this contagion.
There is no proof that a human who consumed beef from an infected cow has contracted CJD. Only concerns and fears over the possibility.
There is no proof that my time in England or Europe exposed me to the disease, yet out of precaution fear, I am deferred. The irony is that I am allowed to be an organ and tissue donor and am a registered bone marrow donor.
One has to wonder whether it is purely political ambition to curry favor from the LGBT community that the likes of Rep. Mike Quigley, Illinois, and Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts, both Democrats, want the ban on gays donating blood looked into.