Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A very bloody affair

I did my good deed for the month week last Thursday.

I donated blood.

No, I am not going to go into the details, as some of you might have hematophobia – fear of blood or the sight of blood.

Still, I would like to post these two pictures up. ;P

Needle being inserted, from which the blood flows from the vein into a plastic bag

That said plastic bag, completely filled with blood

But every time I donate blood, I see something that pisses me off a lot.

You see, all potential donors have to fill out a registration form.

They would have to answer questions like have you had acupuncture or body piercing for the past 6 months, taken antibiotics for the past 7 days, a cold in the past week, dental surgery, etc.

All these questions are to gauge the suitability of the donor and blood.

On the final page, before I put down my signature at the bottom, there is this little disclaimer, which says Please do not donate if you fall into any of the following groups.

Noticed the second item?

That is an outright discrimination!

Anyway, I thought that this must have been a remnant from the British.

At the National Blood Service website in the U.K., I looked for the FAQs. One of them will definitely be who can or cannot donate blood.

The site even had an online list of yes or no questions to screen potential donors.

There are twenty-seven questions. Most of the questions are similar to the registration form I filled out.

Question twelve asks:
Are you a man who has had oral or anal sex with another man (even if you used a condom)?

Four questions later, this question pops up - Have you had sex during the last 12 months with a man who has had oral or anal sex with another man?

If you click yes for any of the two, another page turns up with the message:
Thank you for your time...
But it seems you are not able to give blood.

Yeah, bloody right I can't!

Have you had sex during the last 12 months with someone who has received payment for sex with money or drugs or someone who has injected drugs including body building drugs?

The American Red Cross lists same-sex intercourse under HIV/AIDS. Which, I feel, is a little more tactful. But of course, the message remains the same.

You should not give blood if you have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test, or if you have done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV.
You are at risk for getting infected if you:
• have ever used needles to take drugs, steroids, or anything not prescribed by your doctor
• are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977
• have ever taken money, drugs or other payment for sex since 1977
• have had sexual contact in the past 12 months with anyone described above
• received clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia

In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense for them to blanket discriminate like that. And I do realise we are not talking about human lives here and that the blood banks are being extremely careful.

In fact, not many people are coming forward to donate blood, for whatever valid or invalid reasons.

Generally, men are more suitable donors *hint hint*, as women has that monthly discharge thingy which usually means they either have low iron in their blood or low blood pressure.

In addition, blood donation has its benefits too. Donating blood is believed to aid the rejuvenation of red blood cells and can help reduce the risk of heart disease, especially in men. It also helps to control blood iron levels, which is important for older men.

Not to mention the lives that will be saved from the blood transfusions, like leukemia patients and accident victims.

Anyway, what I am getting at is that this discrimination is illogical. If the banks are really serious about blood safety, the same stringent restrictions should be applied to the breeders too.

Having the restriction that sex with men under any circumstances is too broad-handed. What about oral sex then? Frottage?

It seems to imply that vaginal sex, oral and even anal sex between straights, are safer than sex of any kind between men, not taking into account other factors like whether a condom is used or not.

From the looks of it, the hospitals' and blood banks' only concerns are number of sex partners and prostitutes.

Though "multiple sex partners" is ambiguous – how many is multiple anyway? Two? Twenty?

On the other hand, I am not denying that anal sex, insertive or receptive, is riskier than vaginal sex.

But to deny someone from donating blood on the basis of having sex with men alone, without even stating which kind, is outright discriminatory.

As the radio ad says, the HIV/AIDS virus doesn’t discriminate (heck, all STDs don't discriminate). Why should you?


Legolas said...

You took the photo when they poked in the needle? Nice....

Don't they examine the blood after they bagged them? What happens when a HIV positive person who doesn't know about himself and hasn't had any sex in 12 months donates his blood?

Espion said...

I thought you are a professional risk manager, or something to that effect, no?

Its not discrimination but just prudent risk management, ie men who have sex with men just have a higher propensity to be infected. No you dont think so?

Anyway you dont lie and you can still donate right? :-)

savante said...

Unfortunately that blanket rule does stand - and I still hate it everytime I see it. Unfortunately espion is right.. it's prudent risk management since men who have sex with other men have a higher risk of being infected. Unfortunately gay men have given themselves a bad reputation of sleeping around.

It's still discriminatory in my mind but I don't think they could have phrased that in a better way. Still I agree that it should be changed.. any ideas?


James said...

Your photos are not...user-friendly. There should've been a HUGE WARNING in red letters above it.

...*starts to feel woozy*

weeshiong said...

It may be blanket discrimintation but it's there to protect the recipients rather than ostracise these groups. Donating blood is a good thing but what happens if someone unknowingly donates contaminated blood? The donor himself must be responsible and accountable.

About twelve years back, when I started donating blood here, there were no such checklists. Looking back, it's more scary to think of what harm the lack of screening and control could have caused. Remember that HIV could lie dormant for a few months before they can be detected. I suppose the checklist is there to prevent such blood from getting into the bank.

I do agree that NEVER is a pretty strong word. But we're talking about someone's life here. I'd prefer they do not take chances. In fact, I'd rather miss out on doing this good deed than putting someone else's life at risk.

wingedman said...

Weeshiong's right. Their priority is to get clean blood to people who need it--eliminating high risk groups is such a way, and let's face it...we're in a high risk group. Maybe not you, but others like you unfortunately.

Don't take it personally. Imagine if it was you or your loved one on the receiving end.

Derek said...

legolas: Yeah. People were asking me why was I carrying a camera.

Yes, they do. Which is why they have all those exclusions which I listed.

espion: I agree. But as I said, on the basis of having sex with men alone, it's discrimination.

It's like those who drive Ferraris and Porsche are dangerous and high-risk drivers. So should all of them be banned from the highways?

Regardless of other factors like how often he drives, age, etc?

savante: I agree with you, Paul. It is rather unfortunate that the bad reputation precedes everything else.

james: Sorry, darling. Will do the next time. ;P

weeshiong: I know we are talking about lives here. And I agree with you totally.

The blood banks shouldn't be taking chances. But they are actually.

What I am saying is that - does gay anal sex necessarily mean higher risk than straight people doing it?

The act is the same - anal. The people doing it which are different, but I don't think it justifies excluding gays.

If they want to be stringent, the rules should apply to ALL.

Straight people are getting away with less restrictions and they make up 96% of the population (assuming the same percentage applies to donors).

wingedman: Being in a high risk group doesn't automatically make one high risk, if one takes the necessary precaution.

Just like being gay doesn't mean that one will get HIV/AIDS. It's all in the behaviour and there are many other factors to consider too.

Yeah, I can imagine what it's like if a man, who has sex with only one partner without any protection, donated blood.

That's very sweet of you. I didn't take it personally. And I hope you don't too and can see my point of view. ;P

Espion said...

The 'logic' here is that gay men, or more generally men who have sex with men, are more likely to have, and more often too as compared to straights, anal sex, "receptive" or "insertive" to use Derek's euphemism. :-)

Or that if you own a Ferrari you are likely to drive fast, and often break the speed limit. That you do own a Ferrari and you do keep strictly to speed limits are irrelevant, as far people making decisions about Ferrari drivers, such as deciding on insurance premiums for Ferrari drivers. The relevant thing is that amongst the population of Ferrari owners, 80% break the speed limit.

There is nothing wrong with this reasoning. It is called plausibility reasoning.

Or yet another example, if you are Muslim, there is some chance of you being a terrorist; a chance however small but still higher than one who is not a Muslim. And Muslims do feel discriminated, especially when you are at airports of Western countries.

And yet some others are discriminated by race, eg the bumiputra policies, or by gender, eg service in the Armed Forces, or by height and weight, eg to be heavy vehicle driver, or by intelligence, eg to be an actuarist, by health, to be a food vendor, by sexuality, again, to donate sperm, etc etc.

So you see to be favoured for a thing on the basis of a single factor or attribute, which is entirely not of your control or choice, is more common than you think. So why so agitated and uptight about being 'discriminated' against giving blood?

Spot said...

i guess it's just an issue of erring on the side of caution, since we're dealing with blood recipients.

Of course being in a high risk category doesn't necessarily mean that you're high risk. But in this instance, I think stringent medical precautions should take precedence over political correctness. The discrimination claim will fail on the basis that public health cannot be jeopardised.

It's not so much the specific individual act of heterosexual anal intercourse vs homosexual anal intercouse. It's the implication behind the fact that one partakes in the latter. An unfair assumption, i must admit, that btwn men, anal sex would occur on a higher frequency than any other kind of sex, therefore the higher the risk of transmission in an already high risk act.

Risk management is all about blankets, isn't it?

Haha...word verification says "oldpek". :D

Derek said...

espion: Good example of yours there, Muslims being equated with terrorists and all those job matching discrimination.

It's totally unfair, and that was the reason of my rant. ;P

spot: Good risk management is about identifying and controlling/mitigating the risk.

Just like good underwriting.

In this blood donation case, they chose to eliminate the risk completely, or at least the gay population.

Let me reiterate my point that the breeders should be subjected to more restrictions too.

New HIV infection cases are increasing rapidly amongst them, through heterosexual sex.