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In the early 1980s, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco began dying of a rare form of cancer called Kaposi's Sarcoma. Doctors were alarmed by this sudden emergence within these urban gay communities and began referring to this new phenomenon as "Gay Cancer". It soon became clear that those stricken also developed a form of pneumonia called Pneumocystis pneumonia usually afflicting people with a weakened immune system prompting medical researchers to rename this outbreak Gay Related Immune Deficiency or GRID. As these symptoms began to show up in intravenous drug users, bisexual women, newborns and blood transfusion patients, it became obvious that this new disease was not limited to gay men and the CDC finally gave it the name Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) as its relationship to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus began to be fully understood.

As AIDS began to explode nationwide, panic began to grip the population and the impact on the gay community was nothing short of devastating. Not only were we dying at a startling rate, but the accompanying homophobia deepened with every new diagnosis. Compounding the fear and stigmatization of gay men was the silent indifference to the epidemic by President Ronald Reagan and his Administration while the religious right seemed almost delirious with joy at what they perceived as a just revenge by an angry God Almighty.

Although early perceptions that this disease was the exclusive domain of gay men, the reality was that AIDS is an indiscriminate killer. When people began contracting the disease through blood transfusions, it became chillingly clear that the nation's blood supply had been compromised. The response by the Food and Drug Administration, the organization that oversees our blood supply, was to place a ban on all gay men from donating blood who have had sex with another man from 1977 on. Given the uncertainty about how AIDS was transmitted and no screening mechanisms in place, this policy was prudent and appropriately applied at the time.

Fast forward three decades later. Our knowledge of HIV/AIDS and how it is spread is understood. Profound advances in detection, education on prevention and rigorous testing of blood donations has been established. Yet the policy of the FDA remains unchanged from its implementation in 1983.

What is FDA's policy on blood donations from men who have sex with other men?

Men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977 (the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as blood donors. This is because MSM are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.

This outdated blanket policy set by the FDA has many activists and LGBT equality organizations crying foul. It singles out and enforces the notion that gay men are by their very nature diseased, even though HIV/AIDS is found across every segment of society. It isn't just the opinion of the gay community that this policy is discriminatory. The American Medical Association called for an end of the 30 year old ban this past June.
"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science," AMA board member Dr. William Kobler said in a statement. "This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone."
The following month, the American Association of Blood Banks, America’s Blood Centers and the American Red Cross issued a joint statement calling for the FDA to apply the same screening criteria to potential blood donors in other elevated risk populations.
Blood donation eligibility in the United States is determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). AABB, America’s Blood Centers and the Red Cross believe the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men (MSM) should be modified and donor deferral criteria should be made comparable with criteria for other behaviors that pose an increased risk for transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections.

We strongly support the use of rational, scientifically-based deferral periods that are applied fairly and consistently among blood donors who engage in similar risk activities. We support ongoing efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services and National Institutes of Health to fund research to evaluate deferral policies and prevent potential risks to the blood supply.

Even so, the FDA remains unswayed. Rather than reevaluating their current policy to reflect the enormous advances made in screening and testing blood donations while keeping in place important safeguards for our blood supply, the FDA will continue using a 30 year old blanket ban adopted during an emerging crisis.
The FDA said it will consider lifting the ban, “only if supported by scientific data showing that a change in the policy would not present a significant and preventable risk to blood recipients.”
Other countries have successfully moved past the extreme measures to ensure the safety of their blood supplies. Canada has lifted their ban to now exclude gay men who have had sex with other men within the last five years. Argentina, Australia, Great Britain, and Japan all defer gay men after one year. Spain and Italy take a case-by-case individual approach in their screening process. Banning gay men from donating blood essentially for life is simply not necessary.

I have worked in higher education the majority of my adult life. I have organized a good dozen blood drives on the various campuses I have served. I consider it a civic responsibility and one I am proud to support. However, I cannot donate. If I were to sit through a screening I would meet every criteria expected of an eligible donor except one. I am a gay man. Never mind that I have been in a monogamous relationship for 19 years. Never mind that both my husband and I are both HIV negative. Never mind that I have never once in my life used drugs intravenously. The only thing that prevents me from donating is my sexuality and it feels rotten.

Now on to Tops!

February 27, 2014

Thanks to tonight's Top Comments contributors! Let us hear from YOU
when you find that proficient comment.

From CenPhx:

I thought the following comment by blue aardvark was beautifully put and worthy of lots more eyes seeing it! Found in StellaRay's diary Arizona's embarrassment and Thom Hartmann's brilliant point today.
From blue aardvark and AnnieR:
In Hunter's diary The conservative tent (officially) gets smaller, Vita Brevis stakes it out regarding the CPAC tent.
From ericlewis0:
In my latest ChristieGate scandal post about Christie's refusal to release the Sandy Fund Integrity Reports, aoeu whips out this snarky observation.
From goodeservice:
In bobswern diary Guardian: GCHQ w/NSA’s “Aid,” “…intercepted webcam images of millions of Yahoo users...”, 420 forever gets off one so clever the diarist updated the diary to include it.
From Puddytat:
In my diary Christiegate: Christie Refuses to Release Sandy Fund Integrity Reports AlyoshaKaramazov asks a question and MrJersey steps in with a hilarious, but all too true 4 word answer.
From fb:
In Joan McCarter's diary Obama administration considering several options for NSA dragnet program, Adrianna Editrix posted this excellent chart.
From Steveningen:
In Hunter's diary Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoes pro-discrimination SB1062 from yesterday, inclusiveheart wrote this beautiful comment and more than deserves recognition.

February 26, 2014

(excluding Tip Jars and first comments)

Got mik!

  1) They like their tent just like by Vita Brevis — 170
  2) I think the rip off potential is huge by No one gets out alive — 96
  3) I've read this argument in USSupCt decisions by CenPhx — 82
  4) Still horrifying by noweasels — 77
  5) Harry is becoming one of the great trolls by TopCat — 71
  6) Sigh. by marleycat — 66
  7) Please proceed GOP by citizenx — 65
  8) Sign translations by Rei — 64
  9) Harry is looking pretty healthy now. by FishOutofWater — 64
10) How could you lose your Runes of Banishment? by Rei — 58
11) What Took Him So Long? by bywaterbob — 58
12) We Vote Around 50-50. Gerrymandering Gives You by Gooserock — 53
13) Wonder how many folks died or were hospitalized by Rikon Snow — 53
14) Runes of Banishment... I know I had them by serendipityisabitch — 52
15) You testify with the stupidity you have, by Joes Steven — 52
16) :) by Pam from Calif — 51
17) One firefighter per fire? by aoeu — 51
18) Love your comment by StellaRay — 50
19) Happy Woozle dai! by jennyp — 49
20) Not sure if this made the rounds here, but by 420 forever — 47
21) You've held the mirror up to them, Hunter.  Now by judyms9 — 47
22) He should call them out. by SoCalSocialist — 47
23) The Koch brothers are nothing short of... by Shockwave — 45
24) Yeah, by Cali Scribe — 45
25) Yes, and that photo of them as teens doesn't help. by expatjourno — 44
26) I heard... by LeftCoastTom — 44
27) i don't expect a smoking gun by Laurence Lewis — 44
28) Ready by aoeu — 43
29) Such cute dogs! by Old Sailor — 42
30) Well, on a second (careful) read, I apologize! by bobswern — 42
31) His 2010 win freed him up by Tuffie — 42
32) hope Charlie Crist is reading this by Sherri in TX — 42
33) it may be true by annieli — 42
34) I had a golden border collie mix by Involuntary Exile — 42

February 26, 2014

Enjoy jotter's wonderful PictureQuilt™ below. Just click on the picture and it will magically take you to the comment that features that photo. Have fun, Kossacks!

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