Monday, March 10, 2008

Out-for-blood Drive

A little background: I'm still on the communitymail email list for LPTS. It's an email listserv where people can announce general interest items. I've had some "adventures" on there in the past, but things got ugly when folks wanted to paint me as the mouth-breathing conservative homophobic woman-beater instead of make an intelligent rebuttal. I generally leave it alone, but when the following came along...well...I couldn't hold back.

Let me set it up: LPTS hosts several blood drives throughout the year. There's always a handful of international students or folks who've gone on mission trips to parts of the world that disqualify them from giving blood. With some recent loosening of restrictions on foreign travel, the office staff person that coordinates these donations sent out a helpful email reminding people to reconsider whether or not they are newly eligible. In response to that information, an student demagogue wrote the following:*

I find it somewhat disturbing that we don't make some statement expressing our concern that (as far as I can see in this email) homosexuals are still summarily excluded from eligibility to donate.

To which I responded, as pastorally as I could:

I find it somewhat comforting that - when you graduate - you're "MD" will only stand for Master of Divinity, not Medical Doctor.

Do you seriously believe that this decision is based on homophobia, heterosexism, or anything other than rational medical science?

Stick to exegesis, and leave the epidemiology to competent critics.

(BTW, "homosexuals" aren't excluded - only men who've actually had sex with another man since 1977. That means a heterosexual who was raped in 1983 isn't eligible but a 20 yr old homosexual who has been chaste is eligible, as would be all lesbians - assuming no other risk factors.)

Abraham Maslow once said, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. " Mainline seminaries have sold out to the "oppression / patriarchy / issues" ticket, and are creating ordinands that are incapable of reflecting on ethical, theological, biblical, or political issues outside of that framework. And we're the poorer for it.

* Names have been changed to protect the willfully stupid.

PS - This is the kind of stuff that made my CPM say "CPE will cure him!"

Update! Touchy non-celibate gay male responds:

[Student demagogue] was referring to the fact that gay men are not allowed to donate blood. The list includes people who are now allowed to donate who previously were not allowed to do so. He was commenting on the fact that gay men SHOULD be on that list but ARE NOT on that list. I guess the tests they run on the blood doesn't work for queer blood, that is the only reason that I can figure out as to why gay men are still excluded.

Update part deux: I've been reported to the dean of students. shudder What is it about those Holston boys that makes'em so reportable? Anyway, it's not the first time it's happened. It will probably be the last, as I'm moving away (into my first home!) in about a month.

17 comments:

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

As I look forward to the Church and Society: Local AKA- Black Liberation Theology classthis term...

Chris said...

As this is being fleshed out, he denounced me as a meanie. [shrugs]

But we have had some good conversating about his intention. He said that I helpfully pointed out the inaccuracy about behavior vs. orientation. He helpfully pointed out that his intent was to express "concern."

He's got some misconceptions for sure about biology (though he claims to be an epidemiologist in a former life?) and human anatomy / histophysiology - and statistical generalizations. But the tenor of the conversation is moving in a more neutral vein. Maybe God will show both of us something new!

By the way, we had a class on Liberation Theology, too. It was called THE ENTIRE CURRICULUM.

Cradle Calvinist said...

Until I got to LPTS, I didn't really understand what it meant to say that there are in the church those elected to "warmer regions."

Having been Chris' predecessor as the hated token conservative (and I was from Baltimore Presbytery!), I suffered through such idiocy for two years. Thanks Chris, for deflecting the anger and the hate and making my final year tolerable. "Take up your cross," Jesus said.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

As an aside I am so tired of coursework in Seminary that deals completely outside the Scripture text.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

By the way Chris I am no longer an "inquirer" but will soon be a "Student of Theology".

Chris said...

Ben,

Apart from the waters of life, study can become *very* dry. I think it not subtle that when Paul went to study the Scriptures again after his conversion, it was to Arabia.

In Britain, they have a qualification of Scholar of Theology (postnominals STh) that is commonly used of ministerial students who are on scholarship. I can't believe my hubris let me get away with not using that....

Cradle,

I thought the US military was above using human shields! Admittedly, I spent at least as much time taking up my crass as I did taking up His cross. But whatever I suffered on His behalf was my joy; whatever I suffered on my own oafishness, I repent therefrom.

Presbyman said...

I imagine Bette Davis arriving on campus, looking around, and saying, "what a dump!"

Dave Moody said...

I got nothin'

Chris said...

Dave,

One of my former parishioners has had 13 units of blood transfused in the last 3 months. He's also "got nothin"...infectious, that is. Thanks be to God that there are non-pc folks in charge of our blood supply. (For the moment.)

Cradle Calvinist said...

Back to the blood supply. It's probably worth noting that anyone who has spent more than 6 months in Europe since 1980 is disqualified from giving blood. CJD fears, I believe. This eliminates any serviceman or woman who has spent even a single assignment in Europe. As well as their spouses and children, who, unlike gays and soldiers (did you ever think we could connect those two groups with an 'AND'), didn't actually CHOOSE the lifestyle they lead (or led).

That being said, will LPTS now be teaching a class on Military Liberation Theology?

Chris said...

Cradle,

Unless conscription has been reinstated, we do have an all-volunteer force. They chose it.

CJD fears are now largely related to eating meat in certain countries or dura mater transplants. However, there was a time when if you had Eastern European Jewry among your ancestors, you were deferred. Funny...you didn't see the ADL up in arms then? Maybe that's because there are plenty of Jewish medical doctors saying: "Yeah...that makes medical sense. And as a rational human being, I'll go with what's universally applicable rather than any sort of antirational group-identity politik."

If only our seminaries really did foster rationalistic thinking. It'd be a step up from the pomo garbage being pumped in at the moment.

Presbyman said...

Yeah I can't donate blood either, to my disappointment, because I lived in Europe "too long." Approximately 1-1/2 years in Germany, a few months in England.

Chris said...

P-man,

I'll get the protest signs ready. My semi-secondhand knowledge of your healthy status should be enough to thwart the mountains of more objective data that those Europhobic epidemiologists have collected. Let's overturn their hatred...for JUSTICE!

(PS - to any libs reading, just because you know Bob and John as a lifetime monogamous gay couple in Minnesota doesn't mean you can apply their self-control to the rest of the populace.)

Amy said...

Chris,
Did you know that, in the United States, HIV / AIDS is growing fastest (both numerically and percentage wise)among African-American women? Should, therefore, African-American women be denied categorically from giving blood because they're in a high risk group for HIV/AIDS?
The current restrictions on blood donation assume promiscuity among gay men, which is, indeed, a heterosexist stereotype that is not reality for large sectors of the gay population. The act of sexual relations between two men is of no higher risk biologically for STDs as the act of sexual relations between a man and a woman. It is when that those relations are coupled with other risky behaviors (like sharing needles, prostitution, and promiscuity)that it becomes a risk factor.
It does seem, before you begin ranting about high-risk groups for HIV / AIDS, you might want to do some research about what current statistics actually state, rather than what popular opinion seems to think they are. You may be surprised.
Amy

Chris said...

Amy,

Thanks for your statement. It seems you've fallen into the common LPTS fallacy that those who disagree with the gay-liberationist agenda are simply misinformed. I'll try to dissuade you of that notion - and again point to my thesis, which is that the exclusion of NON-CHASTE homosexuals is due to scientific assessment of risk, not heterosexism.

While I don't disagree with the facticity of your statement on black women and AIDS, it is off in the central place it plays in your argument. Let's take a look at the relevant facts as reported by the CDC. For instance, the rate of AIDS diagnosis for black women is 45.5 for every 100,000 black women.

Are you aware that more than 70% of HIV infections occur among men who have sex with men (MSM), despite the fact that they make up only between 5-7% of the population and more than 50% of new cases (even HRC admits this)? Since the beginning of the epidemic, an estimated 517,992 MSM had received a diagnosis of AIDS, accounting for 68% of male adults and adolescents who received a diagnosis of AIDS and 54% of all people who received a diagnosis of AIDS. If 6% of the male population is homosexually active [a number assumed from "Demographics of the Gay and Lesbian Population in the United States: Evidence from Available Systematic Data Sources", Dan Black, Gary Gates, Seth Sanders, Lowell Taylor, Demography, Vol. 37, No. 2 (May, 2000), pp. 139-154], that would mean that a gay man would have a nearly 6% chance of being HIV+. A black woman, on the other hand, would have only a 0.046% chance of being HIV+. I'm not sure I have enough data to perform a population attributable risk fraction (PARF) or an F test, but an amateur statistician can see the difference in likelihood of HIV infection when comparing the average MSM to the average African American female. While I don't doubt the power of your rhetorical strategy, an objective look at the risks involved speak against a homophobic bent to the Red Cross standards for eligibility.

As for your statements on MSM risk of STD vs. heterosexual risks, I take some umbrage there, too. The problem lies with the histological basis of probability - not just promiscuity. The vaginal mucosa is up to five times thicker than the anorectal mucosa that tearing is less likely. I would also commend to your reading the Journal of the American Public Health Association June 2003, Vol.93, No. 6, which focused on the public health risks accompanying (not necessarily but accidentally) homosexual behavior in America. You'll find startling statistics like how 93% of African American Men who were HIV infected felt that they were at low risk for HIV and didn't know they were infected (cf. pp. 862-65). Also cited is a Centers for Disease Control statistic of a 14% increase of HIV-AIDS among homosexual men in the United States between 1999 and 2001, providing data from California and New York (two states excluded from the CDC report because of over-representation) that details pandemic outbreaks of syphilis and alarming rates of rectal gonorrhea within the subpopulation.

The most alarming study in the AJPH was by Koblin et al, "High-Risk Behaviors Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in 6 US Cities: Baseline Data From the EXPLORE Study." It describes the prevalence of risk behaviors among homosexual men who participated in a behavioral intervention study in six major urban areas: New York, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Denver, and Chicago. The study focused on homosexual men who were HIV-negative and who reported having anal sex with one or more partners during the previous year. The results were staggering: among the 4,295 homosexual men, "48.0% and 54.9%, respectively reported unprotected receptive and insertive anal sex in the previous six months. Unprotected sex was significantly more likely with one primary partner or multiple partners than with one non-primary partner. Drug and alcohol use were significantly associated with unprotected anal sex." (Research and Practice section, Beryl A. Koblin, PhD, Margaret A.Chesney, PhD, Marla J. Husnik, MS, Sam Bozeman, MPH, Connie.L. Celum, MD, Susan Buchbinder, MD, Kenneth Mayer, MD, David McKirnan, PhD, Franklyn N. Judson,MD, Yijian Huang, PhD, Thomas J.Coates, PhD, and the EXPLORE Study Team, pages 926-932.)

The study conducted by Ciccarone et al, on "Sex Without Disclosure of Positive HIV Serostatus in a US Probability Sample of Persons Receiving Medical Care for HIV Infection," provides additional alarming data to support the conclusion that "risky sex without disclosure of serostatus is not uncommon among people with HIV." The authors conclude, "The results of this study indicate that sex without disclosure of HIV status is relatively common among persons living with HIV. The rates of sex without disclosure found in our sample of HIV-positive individuals translate into 45,300 gay or bisexual men, 8,000 heterosexual men and 7,500 women-all HIV-infected-engaging in sex without disclosure in our reference population of individuals who were in care for HIV "...these numbers should be considered a lower-bound estimate." (Daniel H. Ciccarone, MD, MPH, David E. Kanouse, PhD, Rebecca L Collins, PhD, Angela Miu, MS, James L. Chen,MPH, Sally C. Morton, PhD, and Ron Stall PhD., pages 949-954.)

If they wont disclose that sort of information to someone they are about to have sex with, what makes us believe they'll be more forthcoming when it comes to a medical test? (And please do note the disproportionate representation of gay/bi men in the risky, infectious, non-disclosing category as opposed to the heterosexual men and women - or lesbians - with the same behavior and infection profile. You can follow up on this in the NORC report from UChicago.)

Presbyman said...

In support of Chris's comments, but to use much simpler language, if there are ten black women with HIV, and another black woman contracts HIV in a year, that represents a 10% increase.

If there are one hundred gay men with HIV, and another eight gay men contract HIV in a year, that represents an 8%.

To be sure, the rate of increase is higher for black women, but there are still far fewer black women either with HIV now or in danger of contracting HIV either.

Chris said...

John,

Thanks for clarifying it for us mouth-breathing conservatoids who've never actually studied the issue but simply make the decision on blind bigotry and homophobia. ;P

Your reductio ad intellectum serves to point out another important factor: the statistics are not concerned with the likelihood of a subject contracting the virus at some point in the future. It is instead based on the likelihood that someone has contracted the virus but is not yet aware of it, nor testable. HIV (if indeed that is the causal agent of AIDS) has a window period of more than three weeks (though some tests can get a result in less than two). Most tests only detect the antigens - which may not be produced in sufficient quantities to be testable (antigens aren't created once the blood is out of the body without incubating it - which destroys its therapeutic potential). In the US, NAT testing is used - but it is so expensive that blood is tested in multiple-donor batches, and requires multiple uses to narrow down the one donor that is actually infected. There is still a one in 2 million chance that someone will get HIV from a transfusion in the US & Canada. And with HIV being such a rapid and opportunistic mutant, additional safeguards seem the only prudent solution.

The above data already demonstrates a lack of knowledge about one's serostatus. It also provides evidence for patent disregard of that status, even when one is known to be positive, within substantial segments of the gay population.

All of this combines to show that there is sufficient scientific data to cause us to err on the side of prudence. This is especially so when weighed against the alternatives:

1) continue to restrict and someone has hurt feelings; a small segment of the population feels discriminated against.
2) open access and someone gets infected; the populace at large begins to distrust the blood supply; donations dry up because of a sense of futility. Kingdom Halls fill up (possibly the worst consequence, because Hell fills up with them).