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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
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  • 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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US Planning For Space Force To Stay Ahead in War

The general says his team is already writing government proposals to make space resupply a certainty for future military mobility

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Space Force
Air Force Gen. Carlton D. Everhart, the Commander of Air Mobility Command, left, holds a binder with a photograph of Air Force One on the cover as he speaks to Navy Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, second from left, while arriving with other generals and admirals for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla., Dec. 21, 2016. (VOA)

It might sound like science fiction, but the general in charge of the U.S. military’s air transports across the globe says refueling and resupplying the military may soon be a job that’s literally out of this world.

“If I can resupply from space I can go across globe in about 30 minutes,” Air Force General Carlton Everhart, the head of Air Mobility Command, told VOA. “I do truly believe that is the next step. We can really make inroads.”

Everhart says the time gained by using hypersonic craft in space could keep him ahead in “the speed of war,” where competitors China and Russia have been trying to make gains.

The idea of using space deliveries isn’t as far out as it may seem. In fact, industry leaders, companies Everhart hopes to partner with, are already working on this type of technology.

Launch vehicles from companies like SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, and even foreign ventures could “provide tremendous strategic advantage to the U.S. government,” according to Eric Stallmer, the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

But it’s an advantage that would come with an astronomical price tag of thousands of dollars per kilo.

Experts say the need to transport via space must outweigh these costs, perhaps only being used during the most important of missions.

Todd Harrison, a space and defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, points to the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, as a situation where time necessities could overpower cost concerns.

“Imagine if we had been able to launch a SEAL team and put them right down in that compound within 45 minutes of knowing that it was under attack. It could have made the difference,” he said.

The general is not just focused on launching from one point on Earth to another, Everhart also wants to use satellites to preposition cargo in space.

Stallmer said a lot of spaceflight companies are looking at this idea of space refueling depots, including plans to convert those refueling vehicles to habitats within space once they’ve been used.

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The future is full of possibilities, but it is unclear when these technologies will be fully developed. Experts give estimates ranging from a couple of years to more than a decade, but that doesn’t stop Everhart from dreaming.

“The train is leaving the station and we’re going to be on it. And I’m not going to be on the caboose. I want to be in front of, I’m going to be in the front,” he said.

The general says his team is already writing government proposals to make space resupply a certainty for future military mobility. (VOA)