Saturday, May 07, 2005

Brave New World

Just some scary saturday morning fun from the FDA.... Since we all know only gay people get HIV.... uh-huh.

(from Washington Post)

FDA to Implement Gay Sperm Donor Rules

By DAVID CRARY

NEW YORK -- To the dismay of gay-rights activists, the Food and Drug
Administration is about to implement new rules recommending that any
man who has engaged in homosexual sex in the previous five years be
barred from serving as an anonymous sperm donor.

The FDA has rejected calls to scrap the provision, insisting that gay
men collectively pose a higher-than-average risk of carrying the AIDS
virus. Critics accuse the FDA of stigmatizing all gay men rather than
adopting a screening process that focuses on high-risk sexual behavior by
any would-be donor, gay or straight.

"Under these rules, a heterosexual man who had unprotected sex with
HIV-positive prostitutes would be OK as a donor one year later, but a gay
man in a monogamous, safe-sex relationship is not OK unless he's been
celibate for five years," said Leland Traiman, director of a clinic in
Alameda, Calif., that seeks gay sperm donors.

Traiman said adequate safety assurances can be provided by testing a
sperm donor at the time of the initial donation, then freezing the sperm
for a six-month quarantine and testing the donor again to be sure there
is no new sign of HIV or other infectious diseases.

Although there is disagreement over whether the FDA guideline
regarding gay men will have the force of law, most doctors and clinics are
expected to observe it.

The practical effect of the provision _ part of a broader set of cell
and tissue donation regulations that take effect May 25 _ is hard to
gauge. It is likely to affect some lesbian couples who want a child and
prefer to use a gay man's sperm for artificial insemination.

But it is the provision's symbolic aspect that particularly troubles
gay-rights groups. Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal,
has called it "policy based on bigotry."

"The part I find most offensive _ and a little frightening _ is that
it isn't based on good science," Cathcart said. "There's a steadily
increasing trend of heterosexual transmission of HIV, and yet the FDA still
has this notion that you protect people by putting gay men out of the
pool."

In a letter to the FDA, Lambda Legal has suggested a screening
procedure based on sexual behavior, not sexual orientation. Prospective donors
_ gay or straight _ would be rejected if they had engaged in
unprotected sex in the previous 12 months with an HIV-positive person, an illegal
drug user, or "an individual of unknown HIV status outside of a
monogamous relationship."

But an FDA spokeswoman cited FDA documents suggesting that officials
felt the broader exclusion was prudent even if it affected gay men who
practice safe sex.

"The FDA is very much aware that strict exclusion policies eliminate
some safe donors," said one document.

Many doctors and fertility clinics already have been rejecting gay
sperm donors, citing the pending FDA rules or existing regulations of the
American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

"With an anonymous sperm donor, you can't be too careful," said a
society spokeswoman, Eleanor Nicoll. "Our concern is for the health of the
recipient, not to let more and more people be sperm donors."

However, some sperm banks, notably in California, have welcomed gay
donors. The director of one of them, Alice Ruby of the Oakland-based
Sperm Bank of California, said her staff had developed procedures for
identifying gay men with an acceptably low risk of HIV.

Gay men are a major donor source at Traiman's Rainbow Flag sperm bank,
and he said that practice would continue despite the new rules.

"We're going to continue to follow judicious, careful testing
procedures for our clients that even experts within the FDA say is safe," said
Traiman, referring to the six-month quarantine.

The FDA rules do not prohibit gay men from serving as "directed" sperm
donors. If a woman wishing to become pregnant knows a gay man and asks
that he provide sperm for artificial insemination, a clinic could
provide that service even if the man had engaged in sex with other men
within five years.

However, Traiman said some lesbian couples do not have a gay friend
they know and trust well enough to be the biological father of their
child, and would thus prefer an anonymous donor.

Dr. Deborah Cohan, an obstetrics and gynecology instructor at the
University of California, San Francisco, said some lesbians prefer to
receive sperm from a gay donor because they feel such a man would be more
receptive to the concept of a family headed by a same-sex couple.

"This rule will make things legally more difficult for them," she
said. "I can't think of a scientifically valid reason _ it has to be an
issue of discrimination."

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