I’m back and happy to report that there was sun and sand left over. And that walking in the surf and sand is good for a broken toe.
But, what should I write about on my first post back? Art Caplan and the editors at blogbioethics.net were kind enough to help me out by publishing a plea for allowing gay men to donate blood!
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. There’s not a “dormant” or true gestational period for the infection itself. Almost immediately on infection, the virus begins replicating itself. However, there is a period of up to 6 months when the virus can not be detected by any of the tests used by the blood banking system.
Caplan is wrong about the treatment of heterosexual donors and this statement of myth:
We don’t worry about heterosexuals who engage in risky behavior and might acquire HIV because we know the strict testing of today will screen out their blood if it is infected with the virus.
For at least the last two years, when I donate in South Texas, I am asked not only about IV drug abuse and sleeping with men who have sex with men, I’m asked whether I have sex with people who inject drugs and/or in exchange for money or drugs, or whether I have sex with people who have sex with other people in exchange for money or drugs. I am asked where I’ve traveled for the last 5 years. A friend was refused the opportunity to donate for 6 months because she traveled in Mexico where malaria is endemic.
I have taken care of patients who received false positive syphillus tests from the blood bank. I’ve cared for several who were turned away because they had high liver function tests, although the did not test positive for any known virus, including known hepatitis.
I also had one patient who received false positive results on HIV testing during an annual insurance physical at another doctor’s office. The false results were confirmed by the back up antigen tests. But labs drawn a second time (and another day) in that doctor’s office and a third time in my office were negative. We finally decided – in consultation with the other office and the testing lab – that someone in either the other office or the laboratory had mixed up the tubes of blood. So not only did my patient get a false positive, but someone some where received a false NEGATIVE.
It is vital that the blood supply for sick and traumatized patients – those who need blood transfusions and blood products – is screened as vigorously as possible.
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