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Outrage among people as US policy Bans Blood Donations by LGBT Community

The laws restrict homosexual people from donating blood if they have been sexually active within the past one year

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Gay Pride Flag. Image source:jarridwilson.com
  • Government turned away thousands of people including homosexuals who wanted to donate blood after the Orlando Shooting
  • The Federal ban policy was put in place in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic, and it barred gay and bisexual men 
  • FDA ban excludes the remaining 85 percent of gay men who would be suitable and safe blood donors

Thousands of people, including homosexuals, lined up to donate blood after the Orlando nightclub shooting. However, due to US government laws, they were turned away. The laws restrict homosexual people from donating blood if they have been sexually active within the past one year.

This caused anger and resentment among the gays. They are calling for the lifting of this federal ban.

Candlelight vigil for the Orlando nightclub shooting held at Morningside Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wikimedia commons
Candlelight vigil for the Orlando nightclub shooting held at Morningside Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wikimedia commons

The policy was put in place in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic, and it barred gay and bisexual men from donating blood out of fear that they were at high risk of being HIV-positive and could contaminate the blood supply.

Last year in 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revised the policy, allowing contributions provided the gay men had been celibate for one year.

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Scientific developments

Public health advocates, who argued for lifting the blood donation ban last year in 2015, say the policy does not keep pace with some recent scientific developments to safeguard the blood supply against HIV.

Sean Cahill, director of health policy research at the Fenway Institute in Boston, said the revised policy is still unfair. The Fenway Institute does public health advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community.

According to Cahill, the so-called nucleic acid test is now available to detect the presence of HIV in a pint of blood in less than two weeks, compared with the months it used to take. The test is performed on all blood samples to make sure they don’t contain the virus.

Cahill said the second development involves a method of destroying most pathogens in blood, be they bacteria or viruses, including the AIDS virus.

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“Even if somehow an HIV-positive unit of blood gets through the systems that are in place, this pathogen inactivation technology could destroy the HIV in that unit of blood,” Cahill said.

Cahill said the one-year ban doesn’t allow for those males who are in monogamous relationships or who are happily married and are HIV-negative.

People in other high-risk groups are not barred from giving blood, according to Cahill. These individuals include those who have intercourse with sex workers, or intravenous drug abusers who may be donating blood in exchange for money to buy drugs.

Call for updated policy

Cahill called for a more refined blood donation policy.

“We would really like to see a policy that … distinguishes between high-risk gay and bisexual men and low-risk gay and bisexual men, and actually looks at individual risk as opposed to looking at people as members of groups.”

Cahill explained that 15 percent of gay men are HIV-positive in the U.S., but the FDA ban excludes the remaining 85 percent of gay men who would be suitable and safe blood donors. He also said that the supply of banked blood nationwide would increase by 2%-4% if this ban was lifted. He explained that it would also ease the social stigma that the gays feel in US.

prepared by Devika Todi (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: devika_todi

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  • AJ Krish

    This is outrageous.Why deny those who genuinely care and want to donate blood? The law needs to be changed.

  • Ashwati Menon

    HIV virus is a disease that can be transmitted human to human not gay to humans!Homosexuals are also human beings! What kind of democracy are they practicing if all are not given equal rights?

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Amid Intensifying US China Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters Eye Gains

Orient Craft’s new unit in Jharkhand, one of India’s least developed states, will employ about eight thousand workers

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US, China, Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters
Orient Craft, one of India's largest apparel exporters, says it could benefit from increased business as the US-China trade war intensifies. This building in Gurgaon on the outskirts of Delhi houses its office and one of its garment units. VOA

As work on establishing a massive garment-manufacturing unit by one of India’s leading apparel exporters enters the final stages, the company is optimistic about keeping the machines humming. Slated to begin production in August, Orient Craft’s new unit in Jharkhand, one of India’s least developed states, will employ about eight thousand workers.

Inquiries from buyers in the United States, its biggest market, have increased in recent months as a trade dispute with China intensifies, according to A.K. Jain, who heads the Commercial department at Orient Craft. That is why he is upbeat about generating new business. “This is an unbelievable blessing in disguise,” he says. “It will give us an edge.”

Exporters in India are reaping the benefits of the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies as business with both countries jumps, according to Ajai Sahai, who heads the Federation of Indian Export Organizations.

“While overall exports have gone up by nine percent, exports to the U.S. have gone up by 13 percent and to China by 32 percent,” he says. And as the confrontation escalated last week after the two countries failed to reach a deal, his optimism increased. “Since the tariff hike is now substantial from 10 to 25 percent we feel we will have more advantage in market access.”

US, China, Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters
A slowdown in the Indian economy is being attributed to a drop in consumption by an affluent middle class. VOA

India is among a handful of countries set to benefit from the U.S.-China trade dispute, a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development stated in February. “The saying ‘it’s good to fish in troubled waters’ could apply to some bystander nations,” the report said, pointing out that most of the Chinese exports subject to U.S. tariffs will be captured by firms in third countries.

While China has opened its doors wider to a range of agricultural products from India such as rice and sugar, exports to the United States have increased in areas such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, jewelry, auto components and apparel.

“In various products we were losing out to China with a very narrow margin. With the hike, we are able to offset that,” says Sahai. “That is why the tariff war has presented us an opportunity to enter markets in the U.S. in some areas we were hardly penetrating.”

But even as Indian exports benefit, trade experts warn that clouds are also gathering over New Delhi’s trade relationship with Washington. In recent months, U.S. President Donald Trump has slammed Indian duties on some U.S. goods, saying that India is not providing “equitable and reasonable access” to its markets.

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Economists also warn that an eventual slowdown in global trade due to the U.S.-China trade spat will hit all countries including India, which is already staring at an economic slowdown

Growth in the world’s fastest growing major economy flagged to 6.6 percent in the last quarter of 2018 – it’s lowest in more than a year. It is not expected to fare much better this year.

The slump is blamed on slackening domestic consumption, which powers the Indian economy. Unlike East Asian countries, which have raced ahead on the back of exports, growth momentum in India is largely based on an affluent middle class snapping up goods such as cars, refrigerators, air conditioners and other consumer goods.

But there are concerns as automobile sales, the barometer of consumption, plunged to the lowest in nearly eight years in recent months.

US, China, Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters
Like other carmakers, the Hyundai showroom in Gurgaon has witnessed a decline in sales of cars in recent months. VOA

At the Hyundai car showroom in the upscale business hub of Gurgaon, near Delhi, a range of swanky models beckon customers, but there are few to be seen. This is in marked contrast to the last three years when buoyant automobile sales helped India overtake Germany to become the world’s fourth largest automobile market. That prompted car makers such as Hyundai, Honda and Toyota to expand their presence in the country.

“In recent years, March and April used to be good months. But now 20 to 30 percent drop is there in these months also,” says Gagan Arora, business head at the Hyundai showroom. “There is a slowdown in the whole industry. New buyers are not being added so frequently.”

Economists say while rising exports to the United States and China present a silver lining, the first challenge facing India’s new government due to take office after vote counting in elections is completed this week, will be how to restore overall momentum to the economy and see why consumers are not so willing to open their wallets. (VOA)