While this story appears to be an outrageous example of homopohobia and a violation of the potential donor's civil rights, it is in fact standard operating procedure in the field of blood collection. As anyone who has ever donated blood for a Red Cross blood drive at work, before you donate, you are asked to complete a rather extensive questionnaire with such probing questions as:
Since 1977, have you done any of the following:
- had homosexual relations with a man;
- visited sub-Saharan Africa, had sex with someone from Africa or someone who lived in Africa
- ever used a needle to take drugs or steroids not prescribed by a doctor
How does the Red Cross get away with asking such questions? FDA guidelines put in place in 1983 to ensure the safety of the blood supply for patients requiring transfusions. You may recall that tennis great Arthur Ashe contracted the AIDS virus from a transfusion given during his 1983 open heart surgery. Why has the FDA not changed these guidelines despite the development of a test to screen blood for the HIV? The answer is that the test for HIV does not recognize the virus itself, but the antibodies to the virus that develop in the bloodstream.These antibodies, however, can have an incubation period of up to 6 months; hence, obtaining the sexual history of donors remains critical. During my career as an Investment Advisor in the 90's, one of my customers was the head of the blood bank at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore; he told me the following with respect to AIDS testing: the only way to be 100% certain that some doesn't have the AIDS virus is to test them, lock them in a room by themselves for 6 months, and then test them again. Clearly, the careful screening of potential donors' sexual history is a better alternative. I am sure that the folks over at Irish Central will feel otherwise.