Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich Signs Letter Calling For An End To Banning Blood Donations From Homosexuals; Equality More Important Than Safety

On March 4th, 2010, CBS News reported that Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich is one of a group of 18 U.S. Senators who have signed a letter to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg recommending an end to the lifetime ban on donating blood for any man who has had gay sex since 1977. Others signing the letter include Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Dick Durbin and Roland Burris of Illinois, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado, Al Franken of Minnesota, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Harkin of Iowa, John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Read the full letter HERE.

As of this post, absolutely nothing about this has appeared in the Alaska media, and Senator Begich has not addressed this controversial issue on his official website. For someone who professes the commitment to transparency and openness that Senator Begich does, I find it strange that he's not shouting it from the housetops.

John Kerry, the spokesperson for the group, claims that the latest scientific evidence no longer supports the ban. The lawmakers also stressed that the science has changed dramatically since the ban was established in 1983 at the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis. Today, donated blood must undergo two different and highly accurate tests that make the risk of tainted blood entering the blood supply virtually zero. According to the Washington Times, the senators have asked the FDA to consider using the same deferral policies with men who have sex with men (MSM) that apply to heterosexuals who engage in high-risk behavior - usually a 12-month deferral. This would mean that a gay or bisexual man could donate blood if he had not had sex with a man in the past 12 months.

The letter also states that the American Red Cross, America's Blood Centers, and the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) also agree that the lifetime ban is now excessive. However, the World Federation of Hemophilia, representing some of the leading consumers of human blood products, disagrees. Mark Skinner, the president of the group, says that when it comes to pathogens transmitted in the blood supply, 100 percent of the risk is borne by the recipient and none is borne by the donor. While he acknowledges that blood-donor rules are discriminatory by design, the rules are grounded in science and intended to protect the end users, not target a group. Skinner also asserts that we can't just look narrowly at HIV, but must consider the entire system.

Naturally, the homosexual lobby is quivering with delight. Brian Moulton, chief legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said they are hopeful that the policy, last reviewed in 2006, will change under President Barack Obama, "who is interested in looking at all the policies that have a discriminatory effect." The goal, he said, is "to have policies in place that are based on the science" rather than "any discriminatory idea about our community." And although Joseph Wardenski, lead author of the 51-page Gay Men's Health Crisis report which labeled the ban "punitive, unfair and unnecessary", claims that he doesn't want to increase the risk to the nation's blood supply, he also states "We would like to reduce discrimination...".

The lifetime ban on gay donations was established because in the early stages of the AIDS epidemic a major share of cases involved transmission via blood transfusion. Now such cases are extremely rare - less than 1 percent of all new HIV infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, transmissions with HIV-infected blood still occur, and the number of "bad units" would increase if the MSM deferral was changed, Dr. Andrew I. Dayton told an FDA workshop in March 2006. He estimated that in the first year of a more liberalized policy, the number of HIV-infected units entering the blood supply would double. For most of us, that would be an inconsequential risk; for hemophiliacs who consume blood products more exponentially, a major risk. The CDC notes that MSM (men having sex with men) have an HIV prevalence 60 times higher than the general population, 800 times higher than first-time blood donors, and 8,000 times higher than repeat blood donors. But then again, in today's politically-correct society, homosexuals are more important than hemophiliacs. Once again, diversity trumps safety.

But what is just as disturbing is that Senator Begich has chosen to soft-pedal this issue to the Alaska public. Begich has a reputation for keeping Alaskans meticulously informed; virtually every time he even so much as breaks wind, he posts a press release on his official website. Yet this time, no press release. Alaska contains a considerable number of social conservatives and, undoubtedly, some hemophiliacs. I'm sure that proven conservative opinion-molders like Jerry Prevo, Jim Minnery, and Dan Fagan would have appreciated the opportunity to weigh in on this question in advance. Mark Begich should remember that he was sent to Washington to represent the entire state of Alaska, and not just to rubber-stamp the gay agenda or any other special interests.

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