Alex Blaze

Today in HIV hysteria

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 29, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: blood ban, Chinese gays and lesbians, online protest, petition, red cross

Sweeping bans of blood from at-risk populations are usually pretty stupid, but this one's gotta take the cake. Did you know lesbians can't donate blood in China?

Li is a lesbian. Healthcare workers rejected her blood because she declared her sexual orientation on a mandatory health form.

Li is one of the latest lesbians to face such treatment under regulations that bar homosexuals from donating blood because of health concerns.[...]

Shi Weiwei, deputy director of the Beijing Red Cross Blood Center, told China Daily that the regulations barring homosexuals from donating blood stem from safety concerns.

"As we all know, the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including the deadly HIV/AIDS, is much higher among groups such as drug users and homosexuals, particularly gay men, who tend to have multiple sex partners," she said.

The article's actually about an online petition some lesbians are circulating to overturn the ban, but really I was much more surprised by the fact that lesbian blood is banned in the first place in China. Like most of these blood bans, it's a case of HIV hysteria run amok, but this time it's mixed in with a big misunderstanding of sexual identity politics.

The US gay blood ban isn't much better. I wouldn't be so generous as to say that China's ban is based on identity while ours is based on behavior since the questionnaire reduces the complexity of risk, safer sex, and sexual behavior to one asinine question: Are you a man who has had sex with another man since 1977? If you used protection, if by "sex" you mean low-risk activities like mutual masturbation, if you had sex once in the early 80's and have remained celibate since then, if you've been tested regularly, if you've been with only one partner... none of that matters. The definition is the functional equivalent of an identity category, ignoring reality and limiting the information used in determining eligibility to a single factor that's rather unrelated to risky behavior.

And then there's the HIV hysteria evident in the fact that they test the blood well enough now that there's so little risk of transferring HIV-positive into someone who's negative that if you can't handle your chances there, you probably shouldn't get out of bed in the morning.

I'd hope for the Chinese lesbians working on this would work with gay men as well, and I would hope that health officials who are always saying (at least in the US) that they need more blood would take this up as a cause.

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Also Canada. It was reviewed last year and the ConservaTories chose to keep the ban in place. It also applies to organ donation.

I'm totally with you on blanket donation bans, in any country... One thing I learned from living in China is that when the government encounters a problem like HIV, swine flu or SARS, it tends to prefer the table saw over the scalpel in addressing it. That's why in the case of swine flu, if anyone on an incoming plane was found to have a fever, all the passengers would be detained in a hospital for a week or two. I was there when SARS hit, and one thing the provincial government did was cancel the spring vacation week, forbidding high school and college students from leaving their school grounds (note: the high schools are boarding schools, so the kids had a place to sleep) and teachers from leaving the city.

Not saying that banning gay men's blood is a good idea, but aren't lesbians at the lowest risk for STIs?

Lower than straight women, yeah. Bi women though aren't at lower risk.