Thursday, June 24, 2010

Saletan on Black and Gay Blood Donors

I see William Saletan, writing at Slate, asks the same question I was asking a couple of weeks ago, though of course he asks it better than I did. We're talking about the policy of not accepting blood donations from men who have had sex with another man even once since 1977. The abbreviation for "men who have sex with men" is MSM, it's more precise than "gay" or "homosexual."

The FDA bases its MSM policy on simple math. "Men who have had sex with men since 1977 have an HIV prevalence … 60 times higher than the general population," the agency observes. "Even taking into account that 75% of HIV infected men who have sex with men already know they are HIV positive and would be unlikely to donate blood," that leaves a population of MSM blood-donor applicants whose HIV prevalence is "over 15 fold higher than the general population."

So a 15-fold difference is good enough to warrant group exclusion. How about a nine-fold difference? According to the Centers for Disease Control, HIV prevalence is eight to nine times higher among blacks than among whites, and HIV incidence (the rate of new infections in a given year) is seven times higher. For black women, HIV prevalence is 18 times higher than for white women.

And these numbers understate the likely difference in risk to the blood supply. A recent CDC analysis of MSM in five cities found that while only 18 percent of the HIV-infected white men were unaware of their infections, 67 percent of the infected black men were unaware. If the awareness gap between blacks and whites overall is even half as great as it was among the men in this study—i.e., if blacks are twice as likely as whites to be unaware that they're infected, and therefore more likely to try to donate infected blood—then theoretically, black donors are just as risky as MSM donors. If it's OK to reject blood from gay men, what about blacks?

His links are very informative.

This is a multiobjective optimization problem, if I may say so. You are trying to maximize the availability of blood while at the same time minimizing the risk of accidental infection through transfusion.

Maybe it's easier to think of a comparable multiobjective optimization problem that does not have the connotational baggage. Think of speed limits on the roads. There are two criteria: you want people to be able to get to their destinations as quickly as possible, at the same time minimizing the numbers of fatalities and serious injuries from accidents. The ban on MSM blood donors is like setting the speed limit to ten miles per hour everywhere. The Beltway, interstate highways, school zones, everywhere, no one can ever go faster than ten miles per hour.

The effect of such a speed limit would be to optimize one of the two criteria. I'll bet almost nobody would ever get killed or seriously injured in car wrecks at ten or less miles per hour. You can see though that this solution fails to optimize the other criterion. Nobody would ever be able to get where they were going. Forget traveling, working in the next county, forget going out of your neighborhood, you can't do it at ten miles per hour. Speed limits have to optimize both criteria, travel efficacy and safety, over a general population.

In the same way, the point of collecting blood is to make blood available for people who need it. A 2005 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 6.5 per cent of men age 25-44 had ever had oral or anal sex with another man. You would be taking approximately that percent of American males out of the donor pool by implementing a no-MSM rule. The policy has a cost: it results in fewer donors, making much-needed blood more scarce.

Saletan's point is on-target. If the reason for the rule was simply to decrease the risk of infection by banning a group of people with a high infection rate, then in a reasonable world you would not allow black people to donote blood, either. Of course, even if you supported a no-blacks policy with statistics, everybody would recognize the policy as racism. The question for blood donation is obviously not the color of somebody's skin, but whether they are infected with a deadly disease. And even though blacks are more likely to be infected with HIV, and even though they are less likely to know when they are infected, and thus are more likely to innocently show up to donate blood, the powers that be feel that the risk is acceptable. And most people agree that the risk is acceptable, all blood is tested, the chances of getting HIV from blood are now one in every two and a half million transfusions and that's not bad.

So why does the government accept black people's blood and not gay people's? There is only one possible explanation: gay cooties.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is gettin' funny

but no Democrats are laughin', honey:

"PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans continue to give Congress low approval ratings this year, with 20% approving in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll.

From a historical perspective, Americans' job approval ratings of Congress in 2010 rank among the lowest Gallup has measured in a midterm election year. The 16% recorded in March 2010 is the lowest single reading in a midterm election year, just above the low from all years of 14% in July 2008.

This year's low approval ratings for Congress are an ominous sign for President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. Gallup has found greater party seat change in Congress in midterm elections when Congress has had low approval ratings.

Specifically, in the five midterm elections in which Congress' approval ratings at the time of the election were below 40%, there was an average net change in seats of 29 from the president's party to the opposition. That includes the 1994 and 2006 elections, when the net change in seats was large enough to pass control of the U.S. House from one party to the other."

June 24, 2010 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Supremes refuse to protect public from homosexuals:

"Supreme Court ruled that the disclosure of petition signatures does not violate the First Amendment, but petition signers can still act to protect their privacy.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling today denied the broad request of Protect Marriage Washington to keep private the identities of petition signatories.

The group petitioned the Court to protect the privacy of 140,000 people who signed a petition supporting marriage and who were then subject to death threats, vandalism and job termination – all as a result of exercising their freedom to speak.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter. He underscored that a person's privacy rights trump transparency in politics.

"In my view, compelled disclosure of signed referendum and initiative petitions under the Washington Public Records severely burdens those rights," wrote Thomas," and chills citizen participation in the referendum process."

The Court did go to great lengths, however, to say that while the disclosure of petition signatures does not violate the First Amendment, signatories can still act to protect their privacy on hotly contested petitions.

"By itself, this decision is not controversial," said Bruce Hausknecht, a judicial analyst. "However, the most important aspect of the case – whether or not the threat of intimidation and retaliation by GLBT groups against petition signers justifies nondisclosure – has yet to be litigated."

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, left room for the pro-marriage group to go back to the lower courts and seek an exemption based on the violence and intimidation exhibited by homosexual activists during and after the referendum process.

"Pro-family supporters and citizens concerned by past aggressive behavior by gays and lesbians, following the Proposition 8 experience in California, need not fear today's decision," said Hausknecht.

"We're expecting that as this case moves forward, the courts will properly protect the First Amendment rights of the Referendum 71 petition signers," added Hausknecht.

The case – Doe v. Reed – now goes back to the trial court."

June 24, 2010 10:29 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, this is not remotely related to the posted topic. I will leave this one up, but please don't keep doing this or I will delete stuff.


June 24, 2010 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

darn, I was getting ready to put up a provocative comment about school choice

oh well....later

June 24, 2010 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... said: "Anon, this is not remotely related to the posted topic. I will leave this one up, but please don't keep doing this or I will delete stuff."

This ego-stroking behavior of the "Anonymous" poster has been pointed out repeatedly here...I hope you will stick to your resolve and delete his/her comments when they are not related to the topic of discussion, which you introduce.

June 25, 2010 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

unpatriotic citizen:

your comment has nothing to do with the post

please refrain from hypocrisy and only make relevant comments

thank you very much!

June 25, 2010 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you weren't so stupid, you would notice that I made a direct reference to Jim's comments about shutting you up when YOU DO NOT ADDRESS THE SUBJECT...therefore my comments were not hypocritical and were indeed relevant, unlike the zillions of innane and rambling comments that you make on this site that have nothing to do with the topics he posts.
What about my comments makes me unpatriotic?

June 25, 2010 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


let's stay on topic!

thank you very much!

June 25, 2010 10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" Troll:
What chutzpah! telling me to "stay on topic" - words from the infamous troll who believes this site is his own personal soapbox!
Citizen (who believes in following the rules and knows this site does not revolve around his own ego-stroking)

June 26, 2010 6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


let's stay on topic!

thank you very much!

June 26, 2010 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the hypocricy of this "citizen" fellow is appalling

June 27, 2010 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey...two successive posts under the same alias, "Anonymous"...that ain't fair! But then...who really cares for what a nonentity like you has to say.

June 27, 2010 1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way, "Anonymous"...check your puerile childish spelling errors before you post!
A Friend of Citizen

June 27, 2010 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Throughout human history, the "We" have made the "Thems" targets and scapegoats. "Them" are demonized as "The Other." They're the monsters who walk among us. Our darkest, most shameful impulses, which we can't accept in ourselves -- because we're so wonderful -- we project them all onto "Them." Then we kill them. Or treat them to a lifetime of discriminatory abuse.

"Them" is anybody who isn't you, or people like you. Sometimes, the "Them" changes. Over they years, America has enjoyed serial "Thems." First, it was the Indians. Then, it was the immigrants. (It's always the immigrants.) Then it was the Communists. Then, it was the Iraqis. And now, it's apparently all Muslims.

I once heard this psychoanalyst named Vamik Volkan speak at a psychoanalytic conference. (My wife attended, and I went along for the ride.)

Volkan, who has been involved in international mediation efforts between longstanding enemies, spoke about his home country of Cyprus, an island shared by the Greeks and the Turks, but they hate each other. Over the years, the two sides have developed a number of signifying identifiers. Each side loops their belts in a slightly different manner. And each side smokes a different brand of cigarette -- I believe one side smokes Camels and the other side smokes Lucky Strikes, though I can't remember which group does which, which would be injurious to me if I happened to visit there and I smoked.

Espousing the idea of "Large Group Identification," Volkan believes that the concept of "Them" goes very deep. Apparently, we need "Them" to define what it means to be "Us." If he's right, this issue and its destructive consequences will not be going away soon. Of course, we all know who's responsible for that.

June 27, 2010 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"First, it was the Indians.

Then, it was the immigrants. (It's always the immigrants.)"


When non-Indians arrived, they were immigrants. Indians attacked them.

Do you think the Indians were wrong to do that?

Oh, sure, they were trying to protect their way of life but isn't that what you are suggesting is immoral when later Americans did it?

"Then it was the Communists."

Communism is an evil system. Communists had an agenda to infiltrate and destroy our society.

"Then, it was the Iraqis."

When did that happen? We've spent hundreds of billions trying to help Iraqis build a self-determining society.

"And now, it's apparently all Muslims."

There are Muslims all over America and they're doing fine.

July 05, 2010 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

"And now, it's apparently all Muslims."

There are Muslims all over America and they're doing fine.

Is that what they tell you at FAUX News? Maybe you should diversify your news sources and read this New York Times article about the winning film of the OneChicagoOneNation film contest entitled “1700% Project: Mistaken for Muslim.”

The film shows "...Freeway signs declaring, “Kill All Muslims.” Assaults on South Asian Sikhs, Egyptians, Spaniards and bagel store owners mistaken for Muslims. Citations of nasty incidents in suburban Bridgeview and Collingswood, N.J. A man pushing a stroller past a mosque and yelling, “You Islam mosquitoes should be killed.” There are more.

The “1700%” alludes to a national increase in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate crimes after the Sept. 11 attacks. The video is unsparing and short of uplifting, but effectively unsettling, concluding with spare words across the screen: “Look at what you’ve done ... because we refuse to end the violence.”

The videos are the next stage in a Chicago experiment — One Chicago, One Nation — to create greater understanding of a Muslim population estimated as high as 6 million in the United States, with the largest number, perhaps 400,000, in the metro area. The endeavor is backed financially by George F. Russell Jr. of Tacoma, Wash., founder of a billion-dollar investment-services firm best known for the Russell 2000 stock index..."

July 06, 2010 9:16 AM  
Anonymous oiiohh said...

a propaganda film by Michael Moore wannabes

I run into Muslims regularly and they seem to be doing fine

there are some Americans who find it hard to seperate terrorists from the average Muslim but its not that many and their opinion is not the biggest problem faced by the Muslims here

their problems are pretty much the same as everyone else's

"Kill all Americans" is a much more common sentiment in Muslim countries than "Kill all Muslims" is here.

just another fact, inconvenient for liberal propaganda

July 06, 2010 10:12 AM  

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