Monday, June 21, 2010

Follow-up on blood donations

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the FDA finally revisiting its categorical ban on men who have engaged in homosexual sex donating blood.  Unfortunately, last Friday, the FDA's advisory committee on blood recommended that the categorical ban remain in place. 

I don't pretend to be an expert on blood donation and the risks for transfusion recipients, but I am pretty good with logic and the categorical ban for gay men donating blood is simply illogical, especially in light of other high-risk behaviors that do not result in categorical bans.  The bottom line is that our blood supply would be safer if donor screening always focused on the behavior of the individual donor instead of focusing on broad demographics.  As I noted before, there are other high risk groups who are not categorically banned from donating blood.  This article by Slate lays out the facts to support that argument.  African-American women are as a group at high risk for HIV infection, but no one would ever think of categorically denying every African-American woman from donating blood.  As well we shouldn't because there are better ways of weeding out truly high-risk individuals while allowing others who do not engage in risky behavior to donate.

I have to agree with the author of the Slate piece that such categorical treatment of potential blood donors is beneath us.  More importantly, though, I worry that this kind of thinking is ultimately harmful to our blood supply. 

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