Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dr. Andy, Gay Sperm and Homophobic Laws

When Dr. Andy (one of the few folks in the medblogging world who I have actualy met in real life) wrote about the FDA's ban on "gay sperm", I found his response to be poorly informed, at best, and downright homophobic at worst. He said:
It is unfortunate that certain groups may be excluded, but the rules should be based on preventing disease transmission not political correctness. It should be noted that other groups, such as those who are adopted are also excluded from sperm donation.

I agree with him - policies SHOULD be based on preventing disease transmission. But since this policy does no such thing, I'm not sure how this qualifies as a supporting argument for the ban on so-called 'gay sperm'. Furthermore, entitling the post "Excessive Political Correctness" implies that people are upset about it for some wishy-washy 'politically correct' reason, rather than because it is non-evidence-based bad health policy. He gives lip service that there may be a "reasonable objection", but seems like he thinks overall the ban is a good idea. The fact that a screening question for blood donation is MSM sex, but NOT unsafe sex with a commercial sex worker seems to have informed this misguided sperm donation policy - that and the culture war that some of the political leaders today are leading against LGBT folks.
The American Council on Science and Health, a usually quite conservative body has this to say on the ban, from an article entitled Wanted: Scientific Reason for FDA's Gay Sperm Ban

I have searched through the medical literature for a sound scientific basis for this directive, yet the only reasoning behind the recommendation is the fact that homosexual men are at high risk of HIV. If this were the rationale, though, it follows that the FDA should bar other high-risk donors such as men who have used IV drugs or have had sex with prostitutes. This, however, is not the case. Considering the (increasingly) stringent testing procedures employed by sperm banks, the glaring inconsistency suggests the FDA is influenced by ideology, concerned more with sexual preference than with risky behavior.


What is accomplished by barring homosexuals from donating sperm? Does it save money? I don't see how. Will it save lives? Nope. Is it mere bias? It seems so, given the fact that while homosexual men do have a higher risk of HIV -- tests for which are now extremely accurate -- heterosexual men are by no means without risk. The policy seems to be a throwback to the days when HIV was deemed a "gay plague." I had hoped the FDA had made more progress than that.

It's nice to see someone actually doing the relevant literature review rather than paying than lip service to evidence based medicine, but then ignoring it when the non-evidence based reccomendations agree with your predjudices, as too many people do. The article ends by hoping "that the agency is not caving into pressure from homophobic moralists in its recommendation to bar sperm donations by gay men." I hope so too, but I'm afraid with even usually reasonable medbloggers like Dr. Andy being goofy on this issue, I don't have much confidence that this will be true - and what a shame it is that such an important national organization as the FDA has lost such complete touch with its scientific roots.

(ed. I know it's been almost 3 weeks since Dr. Andy's post - I'm studying for Step I, so some leeway is neccessary)


At 6:32 PM, Blogger DeniseM said...

hey mel
guess who
i m looking here at your books read...we have the same taste ..haha
the girl in the flammable skirt..i love that book, and auto. of a face, also very touching. good omens is a classic.
kewl beans
:) denise

At 9:18 PM, Blogger AP3 said...

Good luck with your studying! Yes, I agree with you completely about the "gay sperm" issue. What a disgrace.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Dr. Andy said...

I respond here


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