Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Christmas blood shortage warning

Some less than cheerful news from the BBC this holiday season on the problem caused by a drop in blood donation before Christmas:

"More people need to give blood to avoid a 50% drop in donations over the festive period, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service has warned.

The service said donations fell by 25% during the same period in 2007.

It fears the situation could be worse this year because Christmas falls on a Thursday, the most popular day for giving blood."

Donating blood is a fantastic thing and it's one very easy way to make a tangible difference in the life of a stranger.


"If you have ever had gay sex, the NHS considers your blood contaminated for life."

If you get a tatoo of visit a country that has a high incidence of malaria you cannot donate blood for a year. If you have unprotected sex with a woman or if you're a woman you have unprotected sex with a man you can donate, no problem. However if you are a man and you have sex with a man (It doesn't matter if it's protected sex or not.) you are banned from ever donating blood. To some this policy is justifiable; gay men do have a higher chance of having HIV than other groups. However when you look at the risks this assessment is shown to be fundamentally flawed:

"The US epidemiologist and bio-ethicist Dr Scott Halpern crunched the figures for the court. Some 1 in 100 people who are infused with blood older than 14 days will die – and 13 per cent of infused blood offered by the Red Cross is older than that. This, he explained, poses a risk "thousands of times greater" than "the very worst predictions of HIV infection" if you let latex-loving gay men donate. Why? Because if the ban is lifted and gay men who practice safe sex are allowed to donate, a single HIV-positive blood donation will slip through clinical screening once every 5,769 years. That's one time between now and the year 7777 – or equivalent to it happening once since 3761 BC, when cities had not yet been invented."

I don't like having to employ caveats when I'm talking about something as selfless as blood donation, an act which is uncompensated and is to help someone that the donor will never meet. But i feel in this case it is necessary, the National Blood Service is discriminating against a group of people using very shaky reasoning and that weakens their ability to fulfill their purpose.

I have found an online petition that aims to convince the NBS to overturn their ban, I have signed it and I hope you will too.

Oh, and if you want to give blood in Aberdeen you can go to the Aberdeen Blood Donor Centre. There should be a chance to donate on campus in the near future but I couldn't find anything online, some organisations need to be a bit more internet savvy.

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