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15 Apr 2008

thai red cross reverses ban on gay blood donors

The Red Cross of Thailand announced last week that it would change its screening process for blood donors following strong protest from gay rights groups reacting to an earlier announcement on a blanket ban of gay blood donors.

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Reversing its decision to reject all blood donations from men who have sex with men - even just once, the Red Cross of Thailand announced last week that it would rework the form to more comprehensively assess a potential donor's risk of disease.

The 'window period' is the time it takes for a person who has been infected with HIV to react to the virus by creating HIV antibodies. This is called seroconversion. During the window period, people infected with HIV have no antibodies in their blood that can be detected by an HIV test, even though the person may already have high levels of HIV in their blood, sexual fluids, or breast milk. The three-month window period is normal for most of the population although many people will have detectable antibodies in three or four weeks. In very, very rare cases, a person could take six months to produce antibodies.
In early April, the Thai Red Cross Society announced that it would adopt a ban similar to one that was implemented in the US in 1985 where blood banks will not accept blood donations from "any male who has had sex with another male since 1977, even once."

(The American Red Cross today says a lifetime ban for gay men is "no longer medically and scientifically warranted" although US Food and Drug Administration still bans gay men for life.)

The decision attracted criticism by gay and human rights groups in Bangkok which urged the Red Cross to focus on screening out anyone - gay or heterosexual - with risky sexual behaviour and drug habits, instead of blocking all gay men from donating by only asking about same-sex relations.

The Commission for Human Rights of Thailand threatened to file a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court saying that the Red Cross's decision amounted to discrimination.

According to media reports, Soisaang Pikulsod, director of the Thai Red Cross National Blood Centre, earlier said that the blood bank had large amounts of unused blood that had tested HIV-positive and most of the infected blood was reportedly from men who were having unprotected sex with other men.

Soisaang revealed that the agency had become concerned after it found HIV in blood from 500 donors in 2007. She added that although almost all the donors were notified of their infection only one third of them returned for further counselling. Of those who returned, half said they were gay and half said they were bisexual.

"We didn't mean to hurt anyone." Soisaang said, explaining the reversal. "It was just to ensure the highest possible safety of our patients."

According to an editorial in the Bangkok Post, of the nearly 14,000 Thais who acquired HIV in 2007, 34 percent were young women and housewives while MSM comprised the second largest group at 24 percent.

Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 28 percent of gay men in Bangkok are HIV-positive.

Bloodbanks in the UK, US and Canada as well as countries such as Singapore, which adopts the US FDA's guidelines on blood donations, do not accept donations from men who report that they have had sex with another man.

While the UK bans gay men for life, it imposes only a one-year ban on heterosexuals who have had sex with a partner from a country with a high HIV incidence, such as Africa.

In Australia, a 12-month deferral of blood donations applies to sexually active gay and bisexual men, meaning men can only donate their blood a year after his last male-male sexual encounter. Although the blood is tested, HIV may not be detected by tests during the window period - the time it takes for a person who has been infected with HIV to react to the virus by creating HIV antibodies.

France, Spain, Italy and South Africa have lifted the blanket ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men and now base their screening process on differentiating between risky and non-risky behaviour, regardless of sexual orientation.

Thailand

Reader's Comments

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3. 2008-04-15 20:11
what is the window period - the time it takes for a person who has been infected with HIV to react to the virus by creating HIV antibodies? 1/2 year? 1 year? 2 year? if known, it should be reflected in the questionaire.

next, one should apply the same question to all people (MSM, MSW, WSW, WSM). e.g.

1) are you a virgin from birth until now?
2) have you abstained from any sexual activity with anyone within the past 12 months?
3) apart from your spouse/ regular sex partner, do you have sex with another person other than him/ her within the past 12 months?

the above questions are adequate, since hiv is spread through risky behavior and has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

i looked at the questions and they say:

1) if you are a male, do you have sex with any other man before?

2) in the last 12 months, have you ever had sex with a bisexual male?


[refer to Q23 in www5.ha.org.hk/rcbts/doc/hh_enquiry.pdf]


it is discriminating. does it mean MSM are banned to donate blood for life (in the questionaire, no time frame is mentioned)? how about MSW, WSW, WSM? does it mean hiv does not spread through MSW and WSW?

"bisexual" should not be reflected since it contains element of sexual orientation.
4. 2008-04-15 22:12
our gay blood is sacred. its their loss for rejecting us.

why dont the red cross considers getting gays to donate but with a clause that the blood will be used for gay patients or patients who dont mind using gay blood?

This helps to increase donations at blood banks and acts as a reserve. Having gay blood in a straight man body doesnt make him any gay. Since all blood donated will be tested for dieases I dont see whats the paranoid here.
5. 2008-04-16 03:30
"According to an editorial in the Bangkok Post, of the nearly 14,000 Thais who acquired HIV in 2007, 34 percent were young women and housewives while MSM comprised the second largest group at 24 percent."

So ban the young women and housewives, not us!!
6. 2008-04-16 09:03
You know, we're (us queers) all being driven to the point where post#2 almost makes sense. Our GAY blood IS sacred, and there are times I also feel we (us Queers) shouldn't help ANYONE (but ourselves) by donating our blood, our organs, our time, our money. Having a GAY BLOOD BANK or a GAY ORGAN BANK almost makes sense too....I'd be happy to donate my sacred blood and my sacred organs to another gay brother or sister in need, because I know they would be grateful.....the vast majority of straight people wouldn't. It's rapidly becoming a world of "us against them"....at times I find myself also being driven to the point of not wanting to make friends who are straight. In my business, I have to tolerate straight people, but in my personal life, I steer away from them. Does anyone else feel the same?
7. 2008-04-16 11:06
Considering the large hetero sex tourism in Thailand which is larger than the gay sex tourism, it's not surprising that there are such a high percentage of young women and housewives who have been infected with HIV!

Good for Thailand! For taking a stand and not judging based on sexual orientation, but rather "risky sexual behavior and drug habits! I wish Canada would follow suit, where I refuse to consider offering to donate blood and or organs even if the ban were lifted.

I agree with another poster, I think there should be a gay blood and organ donation organization set up for our own community with the same testing and "risky sexual behavior and drug habits" policies.
8. 2008-04-16 11:46
hottitanca//I agree with another poster, I think there should be a gay blood and organ donation organization set up for our own community with the same testing and "risky sexual behavior and drug habits" policies.//

That's agreeing with the FDA's ban isn't it?! That all gay men are high risk and a gay bloodbank be created because all gay men are equally high risk - no matter what their practices?!

Can anyone explain the procedure with regards to the blood collected when someone donates it until it gets used by a patient? What will the blood be tested for? HIV? Hep A, B, C? What else?
9. 2008-04-16 11:55
Crazy4Manz // how about MSW, WSW, WSM? does it mean hiv does not spread through MSW and WSW?//

According to CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/women/resources/factsheets/wsw.htm):

To date, there are no confirmed cases of female-to-female sexual transmission of HIV in the United States database (K. McDavid, CDC, oral communication, March 2005).

However, case reports of female-to-female transmission of HIV and the well-documented risk of female-to-male transmission [1] indicate that vaginal secretions and menstrual blood are potentially infectious and that mucous membrane.

Of those WSW who were reported as HIV infected, most had other risk factors (such as injection drug use, sex with men who are infected or who have risk factors for infection, or, more rarely, receipt of blood or blood products).
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13. 2008-04-16 13:03
Let's put the facts correct.

1. The anus is not designed for sexual intercourse (not that elastic and self lubricating ) and therefore there is a higher risk of infection.

2. The anus is more difficult to flush as compared to the virgina.

3. The gay population is maybe just 0.000000001% of the entire human race and if in certain geographic area accounts for 20% of HIV cases, it is a very serious matter. We must educate ourselves by studying statistics.

4. Education plays a big role in prevention. In Thailand, most inflicted are mainly lowly educated.

5. Most gay men are afraid to get themselves tested. And worst, they think that by having sex with younger boys / men, they will not get infected.

6. You may practise safe sex, but there are amongst us another 95% whom at certain times go for unsafe ONS. Admit it !

We should not turn everything into a heterousexual vs homosexual issue whenever we talk of HIV. Instead, we should focus on how to prevent the spread further.

Remember, you could be HIV positive without knowing it.
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18. 2008-04-17 13:22
Another Fact :

The rectum is designed to absorb moisture, which is why some societies take their medications through the other end. Figure out what happens if infected whatever are deposited.........
19. 2008-04-17 13:28
Ah, the ANUS - the source of all joy and pain.

Post #8:

95% practice unsafe..geez, where did u get your hole stats from?
0.0000000001% of entire human race?..wow, another amazing "fact"! Is that more like the number of hole marks left over from your ONS? Admit it!!!
Having sex with younger boys???...doesn't that happen to st8 men who go after younger girls too? The A is harder to flush than the V? Well now, gotta hand that one to you-U should know cos u probably have both, ya? Admit it!!!

Dun get me started. It's when shitty backward views get on forum and attack our own gay bros and sis that really get me thinking-no wonder we have so so much to overcome, when the insidious enemy is living within our same abode....
PS: just coz u say u "claim" u r here to educate on gay issues without agenda in your profile does not mean u ain't an asscunt when u make anus comments!

Btw, I fully agree with #2 & # 4. Brilliant!
20. 2008-04-17 13:35
Post #9 gymhotbod says (Posted : 17 April 2008 13:22) :

Another Fact :

The rectum is designed to absorb moisture, which is why some societies take their medications through the other end. Figure out what happens if infected whatever are deposited.........

------------------
I rest my case. Can't argue with someone who eats with his ass and shits thru his mouth. Hmm, u must love eating raw bananas that way-95% do. Admit it!
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38. 2008-04-17 15:45
jammyboi , can see that things are getting personal hahahaha. Ooooo very afraid least you attack me through the net with your high heels ahhahaha. jammyboi, jammyboi ... you picked the wrong guy here hahahah I am very free to entertain you hahahahah.

You flop your biology lesson ??? Ignorance is not bliss in this case. Can you read ??? Read carefully before you talk else you are making a real fool out of yourself. Seems that someone need to go back to school or travel more instead of using the other orific to debate all the time ahhahahah :). Let me recommend a few place you should visit and know more about hmmm ... Japan and know some doctors there .... Thailand and visit the Red Cross instead of just DJ station or taking drugs ... well just to name a few.

How can you argue that gays who disagree with you are attacking "our own brothers and sisters " ?? And all those whom agree with you term "brillant" by you. hahahaha . As I always advocate, there is no need to resort to militancy to get things done. Have you read LuShun's "The Story Of Ah Q " ??? Boy, a real living "Ah Q".

Anyway, it is up to the readers to judge. At the end of the day, it is we gays who are suffering from the high rates of HIV and ignorance :).

As you know who puts it... "God have mercy!" .....
39. 2008-04-18 01:06
My country doing right thing to respect own gay people through proper education and understanding and many support from all people. We try very hard and sometimes fail sometimes win. Needs patience and long process but we are accurate results showing good.

Very negative and wrong insult comments like gymhotbod make general and destroy gay people and spread his own views. Not welcome.
gymhotbod, your behaviour really very childish and nonsense. Please stop.
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45. 2008-04-19 08:32
Post #13 Divine6969 , we are not here to launch personal attack like what jammyboi did. And one of the issue here is to read and be rational about things. Being emotional hardly resolve any problems.

There was nothing negative or insulting about my comments about Thailand. There are many other good things about the place other than DJ station or drugs. I have seen the good works of Thai Red Cross. What's wrong with that ??

Anyway , If you notice, my posting is just the 13th# here. Have anyone ever question why it is so pathetic when it comes to the issue of HIV ?.Overall comments mainly dealt upon the discrimination issues. "The Straights did it too !" they said. Why the constructive contributors are so little.

Does the observations be some cause of alarm ???
46. 2008-04-20 03:39
Many gays that I know of for many years and those from many reputable sources that I read off from, live quiet and respectable lives and practice safe sex and do volunteer services within the gay community. I find post #8 disrespectful and offensive.

Reading posts #8 & 9, makes it very easy to understand why idiotic and stupid comments that try to pass off as facts, deserve a witty ridicule from post #10 & 11.

Comments from gymhotbod seems sweeping and assumptive, almost to a point that raises the alarm of unstable personal baggage. Vicious retorts like post #12, confirms irrelevance and an immature mind at best. Nothing personal here.
47. 2008-04-20 18:30
I wonder if any of those who disagree with me here are from the medical or scientific professions.

There is nothing disrespectful and offensive about it as I work with people who are HIV +. The things which I have stated are facts except that they are in the layman's terms so that mare people could understand what I am trying to put across. I guess it touches alot of nerves when we touch on things we do not want to talk about.
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50. 2008-04-21 03:52
i do agree with gymhotbod about certain facts regarding his posts #8 and #9.

but one should also realize that just as low crime does not mean no crime, low risk does not mean no risk too. hiv is also spread through virgina sex just like anal sex. thus one cannot use the so call statistics and extend it into condemning a particular group of people with a particular sexual orientation which is not widely accepted. some religious people has use the statistics for their own self-centered political agenda.

just like the questionaire which i mentioned earlier
(refer to post #1). why should some organization talked about MSM and bisexual only? this is because some people use certain statistics and argue that they belong to 'high risk' group of people. but the fact is that so long as there is one case of hiv spread via virgina sex, or MSW or WSW in history, one should include the latter. otherwise it would create misconception to the uneducated or be a discrimination to target at a particular group of people.
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53. 2008-04-21 14:21
Well said, Crazy4Manz. =)

Good to know there are people in fridae with the ability- & sophistication- of presenting their viewpoints without unnecessary belittling & condescension.

Besides, any one who can read is able to get the gist of the above article - it already states very clearly why the Thai Red Cross's previous action smacks of discrimination- and the reasons they later decided to reverse the ban.
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61. 2008-04-21 17:37
Post #17 Crazy4Manz, I do agree with what you said. But then, if we go deeper into that arguement, we can close down the blood bank and go for harvesting our own blood regularly for our selves just in case. The problem is that even virgins can be part of the statistics if they are not carefull. But the statistics shows that it is not viable to go that far. The Singapore Government tested the ground with free testing of all patients in selected hospitals. The opt out % was such an embarassment. Why ??

Statistically MSM is a cause for concern as we contribute a higher % of overall infection even though we are the minute minority. Even manufacturers of condoms do not want to make a statement that the device is 100% safe. It is better safe than be sorry.

If by any chance, someone gets infected somehow through infected blood, who should we shft the blame to ? Note that the cost of treatment medication averages about S$6,000 a year and it is a lifetime affair. What % of us can afford that here ?

I practise safe sex. But I do not donate blood as I am gay, MSM and I belong to the high risk group. I do not use the blood bank as my HIV test centre. I do not want to be one of the cause of the alarm spread of HIV. I do not want to be a murderer.

At the end of the day, we should be spending more on prevention then worring about being politically correct or discrimination in this case. We have a problem and others, may it be religion or heterousexual are hitting on us based on that. Why not look inward and reduce that problem. No big deal about the questionares on blood donations. Just don't donate if you are not an angel.
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63. 2008-04-21 23:33
I think that gymhotbod and the guy who designed his anus should go to jail together so they can figure it out
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68. 2008-04-22 01:39
Dear gymhotbod (post #19),

You have a point in saying that even virgins can be part of the statistics if they are not careful, and statistics shows that it is not viable to go that far.

You have a point in saying that statistically MSM is a cause for concern as we contribute a higher % of overall infection even though we are the minute minority.

But fact is real, and I mean hiv can spread through virgina sex. If the organizsation genuinely believes that hiv can spread through MSWs or WSMs, while all blood samples will still go through screening for hiv anyway, i can't see the reason why they do not include this group of people in the questionaire.

Unless it means that they would not screen the blood sample offered by MSW or WSM, or it means that they woud not set a high alert signal to laboratorists when screening those samples offered by MSW or WSM for hiv, or it means that they will throw away all blood samples of MSM anyway without any screening for hiv.

Leaving out MSW and WSM in the questionaire would also mean if their blood samples have reflected hiv antibodies, there will not be any chance of prosecuting them 'for lying' because they are not provided a chance to 'speak the truth' in the questionaire, since the questions do not include MSW and WSM. If MSM would be prosecuted and not MWS and WSM in this case, then to me that would be discrimination.

Even if the organization believes in 'the statistics shows that it is not viable to go that far', when they talked about MSM act in the questionaire, they should:

1) Mention time frame (i.e. window period, e.g. past 12 months), in conjuction with other questions. Leaving out the time frame for the MSM question would imply that, eg. a woman who have sex with a MSM 13 months ago is less likely to contact hiv as compared to a man who had sex with man 10 years ago. Ridiculous.

2) Eliminate 'bisexual' term, as this contains element of sexual orientation which has nothing to do with hiv status. Just say MSM is enough.

If not, apart from the issue of discrmination, having such ambiguous terms in the questionaire would cause misconception to the uneducated blood donors (e.g. all men with bisexual orientation are prosmicuous and their blood will always be dirty, or AIDS is sent from God to punish bisexuals). This would continually be another avenue for some religious people to truimph in their self-centered political agenda.
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71. 2008-04-22 06:29
With due respect, I do agree with Crazy4Manz, VexX and the likes who presented their case with vast wisdom.

Can we, the gay community reduce our HIV rates ? Yes we can !.

Can we, the gay community change the mindset of others ? Hmmmm not with the high rate of HIV in our community and the sleaze associated with us.

Why are we supplying a constant flow of ammunitions to our enemies to descriminate against us ?.

Basically I am saying that we, the gay community need to put more energy into cleaning our house and backyard, than to waste so much of our energy fighting descriminations which resulted from our own doings, our irresponsiblities.
72. 2008-04-22 11:22
Crazy4Manz // But fact is real, and I mean hiv can spread through virgina sex. //

That said, the anus is more susceptible to tears than a vagina is due to biology. And by the same token, the risk is higher for a gay top than bottom... and for straights, higher chance for male to female transmission than female to male transmission.
73. 2008-04-24 12:45
like assholes, we all have opinions. HIV has long been stigmatized as a GAY disease. Like it or not, true or not, we're in the spotlight with this affliction and we've been handed this disease....we own it, like it or not it's ours. Homophobes (largely bible-thumping christians) are having a field day distorting statistics, propegating their propaganda passing moral judgement, dooming us to hell, and spreading their hatred for homos. HIV has made their cause EASY. How could we manage to focus on the VIRUS and the PEOPLE who are LIVING with the virus in a more compassionate, understanding and even scientific (in a communitywhere the real facts are a part of the solution, without applying moral judgements), and cures discovered. If HIV were actually cured, or at the very least, de-stigmatized and mainstreamed, the homo-haters' largest WEAPON against us would be gone. Obviously, until THEY (homo-haters) are all infected with HIV, they will make SURE a CURE is neither found nor implemented....Yes, they have that power and Yes....this has become a conspiracy against us of the most wicked kind. So, as fellow citizens of this planet earth, what are US QUEERS going to do about it? Are we going to continue bickering amongst ourselves, showing off our (mostly lack of) verbal fluency and (lack of) knowledge and scientific facts, OR, are we going to turn our unstoppable, boundless energy and passion toward those of us living with HIV and help to find a cure not only for AIDS but also for HOMOPHOBIA which has also reached pandemic proportions and has afflicted millions around the world. There are no chemical cocktails or medical treatments for HOMOPHOBIA...it's a disease out-of-control.
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80. 2008-04-24 18:14
Who are we kidding here ?. Billions of dollars are already spent trying to find a cure, but because it is a virus, a vaccine is the only possible cure, just like Flu, small pox etc. Only our own immune system can destroy the flu virus. The problem is that HIV attacks our CD4 cells, the very mechanism that help us fight disease, by hijacking it with injection of its own DNA, and after that, explodes into more viruses. It's like the movie Alien and more scary, except that we cannot see it.

Drugs had being developed to stop its reproduction cycle, however, because it is a virus, it mutates ... change just like the Alien Movie. This very aspect is making finding a cure even more complicated, and the lifestyle of we gays are making this even worst. Imagine 2 HIV+ person with two different strains of the virus coming together and creates a new super strain of the virus ..... which had already happened, to the horror of researchers in US........

Some strains are already resistant to the earlier drugs developed...... our only hope against it is for all to go for HIV test regularly and to practise safe sex. At least, should you be infected, the infection stops there ... hopefully.......

"Homophobes (largely bible-thumping christians) are having a field day distorting statistics, propegating their propaganda passing moral judgement, dooming us to hell, and spreading their hatred for homos." ..... these bible-thumping christians have their own blood donation drives ... their blood are not infected .... they have enough morals not to donate if their blood are tainted during their blood donation drives ....we are the one who provide the statistics .... they didn't distort them for this particular case ........

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