After years of lobbying by homosexual activists, the FDA has lifted its lifetime ban on “men who have sex with men” (MSM)—which is the Centers for Disease Control designation—from donating blood. Homosexual activists view the ban as unjustly discriminatory, a relic from the beginning of the AIDS crisis when testing was far less effective. The change means that donations from MSM who claim not to have had homoerotic encounters for one year will be now be accepted.
While many homosexuals claim the lifetime ban was based on “homophobia,” they can’t explain why it didn’t apply to lesbians. Facts are such stubborn and inconvenient things.
While many cheer this decision as a victory for science, others are wondering if it’s a political victory for male homosexual activists.
The FDA explains that “its policies to date have helped reduce HIV transmission rates from blood transfusions from 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 1.47 million.” Further, the FDA cites an Australian study that showed no increase in HIV/AIDS transmission rates following their switching from a lifetime ban to a one-year deferral period.
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News reports cite similar policy shifts in other developed countries. For example, the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, and Japan all have one-year deferral periods, and Canada and New Zealand have five-year deferral periods. It is interesting to note, however, the HIV/AIDS adult (ages 15-49) prevalence rates in these countries as compared to the United States:
- United Kingdom: .3%
- Australia: .2%
- Sweden: .2%
- Japan: <.1%
- New Zealand: .1%
- Canada: .2%
- United States: .6%
The United States has twice the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate as the country with the next highest rate.
The reason for a one-year deferral period is that during what is called the “eclipse” phase” or “window period,” the HIV virus has infected the first cell but is present at levels undetectable by current testing. The eclipse phase is estimated to last from 7-90 days. Therefore, the one-year deferral period is viewed as more than sufficient.
The ban on donations from MSM grew out of concern not just for HIV/AIDS transmission but also for the transmission of hepatitis. According to the CDC the risk of transmission of acute hepatitis, which is caused by the hepatitis C virus, is just under “1 chance per 2 million units transfused.” It has also been reported that the rate of hepatitis C among MSM is approximately 5%, whereas the rate among the general population is .78%. Since the rate of hepatitis C among MSM is over 500% higher than the rate among the general population, will the lifting of the ban on this high-risk group donating blood increase the number of people infected by hepatitis C?
The CDC also reports that “[a]mong adults, an estimated 10% of new hepatitis A cases and 20% of new Hepatitis B cases occur in MSM.” So, 10% of new hepatitis A cases and 20% of new hepatitis B cases come from a demographic group that theCDC claims constitutes 2% of the population. A 2011 study reports that the level of Hepatitis B infections per donations is “1:500,000 to 1:1,000,000.” Will this rate remain steady or increase now that MSM are permitted to donate blood?
The FDA assures the public that “[m]oving forward, the FDA will continue to reevaluate and update its blood donor deferral policies as new scientific information becomes available.” Let’s hope and pray that the new scientific information does not include an increase of even a small percentage in the HIV/AIDS or hepatitis transmission rates. And let’s hope and pray that when screened, men who have sex with men will be truthful about the duration of time since their last homoerotic encounter.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.