14 June 2007

This post is not what it seems.

We returned from the cabin yesterday. I already miss it - and not just because the breeze off the lake made the mid-80-degrees days not just tolerable but actually quite pleasant. Our house is hot and sticky and even though we get periodic breezes through the upstairs open windows, it's still too hot and sticky to contemplate knitting anything with wool or spinning anything with any possibility of sticking to moisture in my hands (like the baby camel & silk tends to).

My Fiber Swap box arrived while we were out. It's quite lovely and has lots of fun things to play with - including samples of cotton and soy silk and flax which I'm unwontedly gleeful about (or will be once it's not a sauna in my house) - and I will take pictures and post in more breathlessness about it all soon, but in catching up on the headlines from the last several days, I came across an article stating that the number of persons living with HIV/AIDS in a county near us went up in 2006.

Which is a bit of an understatement; the number nearly tripled. (Which, in and of itself, is somewhat mitigated when you realize that the total number of persons living with HIV/AIDS is in the low 20's, but the rate of increase is still somewhat of a shock.) According to the article, a large portion of the increase is due to an "influx" (can 2-3 people really be considered an "influx"?) of people to the area who were already diagnosed - so it's not a three-fold increase in the incidence of HIV/AIDS infections, but rather an increase in the prevalence of persons living with HIV/AIDS in the region.

And then I read the comments to the article (if you do this, read from the bottom up as the newest comments are added to the top). And as is not all that uncommon when I venture into the comments, I was rather horrified at the ignorance and prejudice displayed therein. But that's not really my point either; rather, I was reminded by something someone mentioned in passing in one of the comments of a rant I've been wanting to write for a few weeks.

It sums up to this, in short: If you trust the security of your blood supply to self-disclosure of potential risk factors, you're negligently naive. (I warned you this post wasn't what it seemed.) While the FDA's policy of "self-deferral" to keep men who have sex with men (MSM) from contributing to the nation's blood supply *may* reduce the 1 in a million chance of someone contracting HIV from a blood transfusion (which is not insignificant given that there are, in an average year, about 20 million blood transfusions in the US), it relies on the self-identification of MSM as such.

And.. well.. even with the change in terminology and the targeting of MSM who do not identify as gay or bisexual in media campaigns, there is a relatively substantial population of men (apparently especially African American men) on the down low - substantial enough that they are believed to be the primary reason that the incidence of HIV/AIDS among heterosexual women has been on the rise. So.. knowing that, I fail to understand how a policy of self-deferral - which will undoubtedly succeed in keeping a large number of HIV-negative self-identifying MSM from attempting to give blood - is going to do anything to protect the blood supply from the uncounted (but believed to be large) population of MSM who don't identify as such.

It's a farce. Rather than admit that the blood supply is at risk of contamination, the FDA would rather reaffirm the stereotype that homosexual and bisexual men constitute the only population with significant enough risk of spreading HIV to warrant the prevention of their contribution to the blood supply - in defiance of the facts that the proportion of new female HIV cases has been steadily rising over the past decade and that 80% of new female HIV infections are transmitted through heterosexual sex. By playing on the fears of the uneducated public, the FDA is knowingly contributing to a false sense of security regarding the US blood supply.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating for the abolition of the maintenance of the US blood supply, or for more stringent restrictions as to who is deemed worthy of contributing; rather I'm arguing for an admission of the actual risk inherent in the system and an abolition of restrictions that are based on fear and prejudice.

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