Thursday, November 10, 2005


The Muriels have a post on what seems to be another homophobic attack on gay men giving blood. The full page ad in the Sydney Star Observer was paid for by ASHM, ACON and AFAO. Tasmanian Michael Cain is still fighting for his right to donate blood.

Any blood transfusion is risky but for every million people who receive a transfusion the risk of HIV or Hep C infection is 1:5,000,000 whereas getting the wrong blood type is 1:400. Adding to the risk is undetected West Nile Fever, Malaria, Chagas disease or cytomegalovirus which can affect immuno-compromised patients. B19 parvo virus can cause severe anaemia in patients with weakened immune systems. Blood donations are also rejected from people who have lived in countries where BSE is found. If H5N1 mutates to human to human infection then blood supplies will be further compromised.

The Red Cross, in Australia, does not buy blood, it relies on the donations of responsible people. Donating blood is not done on a whim. It takes time, not everyone is comfortable with needles or even the sight of blood. A gay man who wants to donate is going to be responsible, dedicated and not inclined to lie about his sexual contacts.

One of the answers to this is to fund research into artificial blood. A long lasting form that doesn't need to be kept cold. It could be given to anyone without testing for compatibility which would make it ideal for disasters like Aceh and Pakistan. It could be stored in any remote area or even carried by travellers. The 55 million dollars being spent on IR advertisements would have been better spent building on research already started by overseas companies.
It's not an easy task because of the complicated nature of blood. At the moment we use a saline solution to replace the volume of blood lost, to keep blood vessels open. The artificial blood has to carry and release oxygen in the right place, be viscous enough to keep blood vessels open but thin enough to flow easily. Of course this is a simplified version of a complicated procedure.

Successful research resulting in an artificial blood product would be one of the greatest advances in medicine resulting in thousands of lives saved. We can't live without oxygen but we can't get oxygen without blood. Maybe then we could end this stupid argument about whose blood is good enough.

1 comment:

River said...

Anyone's blood is good enough for me. I'll always be grateful for the three transfusions I received when I hamorraghed (spelling?) during my hysterectomy. I now repay the gift by donating whenever I can.