My Blood May Not Be Good Enough

12 May

Sooooooooooooo….it seems I have joined the “High Risk” group…along with gays when it comes to blood donation.

Apparently- in order to reduce the risk contanminating the U.S. blood supply, certain individuals cannot donate blood.  People like Turtle who tried to donate blood last week at a Red Cross location – like he had always done for years.  Oh yes.  White boy cannot donate because of his *gasp* African girlfriend.  He was told he could not donate blood (and never will again) because he was dating someone born in Africa.  Oh yes.  I am not making this up.  I mean, Turtle is healthy.  I am healthy.  We get annual checkups…blood, physical, pap smear (for me of course not Turtle), cholesterol, tryglycerides, the whole shebang.  

The irony of this is that Turtle donated blood last year – while we were dating.  This year, some new rule has basically removed anyone who was born in Africa and their boyfriends/spouses from donating blood. It seems the current screeening tools available to screen donated blood cannot detect certain HIV strains like the infamous Group O.

The rules affecting Nigerian-born folks:

  • those were born in or lived in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger, or Nigeria since 1977.  This requirement is related to concerns about HIV Group O.
  • Persons who were born in or who lived in certain countries in Western Africa, or who have had close contact with persons who were born in or who lived in certain West African countries are not eligible to donate. This requirement is related to concerns about HIV Group O.
  • It is better to be safe than sorry.  Afterall, I may end up in the hospital one day needing a blood transfusion and I would want whatever blood I receive to be very safe.  So after spending a few hours being upset about the possibility that the Red Cross was racist, I did my homework and figured they were doing the best they could.  Hopefully in a few years, testing kits will catch up to the mutating strains.

    This should not deter you guys from being donors!  Please donate blood or if you are naija-born like me, donate money.

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    34 Responses to “My Blood May Not Be Good Enough”

    1. Ms. O May 12, 2010 at 10:28 am #

      I found out about the rules in my first yr of univeristy, when i tried to donate blood. I was so furious!…but i got over it. I dont like needles anyways..lol

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:37 am #

        I was sooo upset when Turtle told me. I had to google the requirements and figured out the reasons were not as bad as I thought. I got over it too. I hate needles.

    2. EDJ May 12, 2010 at 10:42 am #

      Lol when I was in college, one of my classes had an extra credit component that said if you donated blood you could get about 30 extra points for the class. So, I hightailed it over to the teaching hospital to give blood and they told me since I was an African they couldn’t use mine.

      I graciously accepted their response, had them sign off saying that I had tried to give blood but couldn’t and then I calmly explained it to my teacher. I still got my 30 points.

      Personally if I can avoid needles based on my country of origin I see no loss in that. People can’t take this personally, and sometimes our immediate response is to feel insulted/upset. But, if you understand the logic (like you said) you see its nothing personal.

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:38 am #

        30 credits for just showing up and not getting poked? You were one lucky chic!

    3. El Divine May 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

      hahaha…wow. seems nothing is ever quite str8 4ward when it comes to us. there always has to be some unique slant to it. not a bad thing at all…but i kno a lot of ppl that will sooner give blood than money lol

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:39 am #

        I wonder about the people that sell their blood. Does that mean a pint of naija blood is now worth $2.99 instead of $50?

    4. Ibhade May 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

      WTF! *sigh* it is quite saddening…i mean RACISM is still existing! My people, we are deceiving ourselves by trying to be like them! I heard there are churches for blacks & whites ehn? THEY ARE THE ONES THAT PREACH ONE LOVE! *hiss*.. For crying out loud! WHO THE HELL TOLD THEM HIV ORIGINATED FROM AFRICA HUH? Were they not the ones sleeping with animals first? having anal sex first?….

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:41 am #

        At first glance it may seem like racism but it also extends to those that lived in Great Britain between 1977 and 1981 or something like that…I think the problem is that HIV group O is hard to detect and may contaminate the current bank. Also, the group strain is predominantly found in Western Africa. Science has not caught up to this strain yet.

    5. Lady X May 12, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

      Ibhade calm down now. There is no need to discuss anal sex and the origin of AIDS. Nobody said anything about trying to be white.

      LL, that rule is ridiculous. My University has this blood donation thing every year and last year my sister donated with no problems whatsoever. I’m sorry but I do not see how this is not blatant discrimination.

      I’m sure they check and re-check everyone’s blood after they donate it (at least I hope so) Why should the blood of people from any region not be accepted? After all they are going to check the blood anyway right? AIDS is not only in Africa and it certainly doesn’t show on the face. As if that is not enough if you have been with someone from Africa you also can’t donate blood? Cmon LL, that’s bullshit! SugaBelly mentioned this same thing on her blog once.

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:44 am #

        Well, i suppose the Red Cross has different rules from other hospitals and blood banks. I would think that all donated blood is screened but like I found out, some HIV strains are hard to detect.

        Personally the idea of getting donated blood kind of freaks me out. Makes me want to donate my own blood to my own vault and save for the unknown….lol.

    6. taynement May 12, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

      Yea I found out my first year of college. nyeh like you said better safe than sorry.

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:45 am #

        True. I just wonder is there is some kind of mutated strain that is just from Oyinbo people.

    7. Funmi May 12, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

      Erm… I apologise if I’m just being thick here but if this is a difficulty concerning a blood group, shouldn’t they exclude that blood type and not all people born in a certain place? Over here, the stipulation is only if you’ve been to Africa in the last 3 months or so (cos of stuff like malaria etc) which is understandable. But excluding people cos they were born there sounds stupid…

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:46 am #

        I think it is geographic region and HIV strain group O…not blood groups. There are also other strains that are hard to detect besides strain O.

        • Funmi May 13, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

          Aaaaahhh… I get it now… Was very confused… OK, I see the point sha.

    8. Mamuje May 12, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

      Waoh now thats new…Didnt even know your turtle was Oyinbo..but meanwhile I am thinking that they can purify the blood abi….this whole West Africans cant donate blood is news to me oh..

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:46 am #

        Turtle is Oyinbo. Is Alpa Chino naija?

    9. Nice Anon May 12, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

      I found out one year when longer throat carry me go because you get free subway. Na so dem give me ela. E no bother me sha

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:47 am #

        Pele, my dear. Next time I am in town, I will buy you Subway….lol.

    10. histreasure May 13, 2010 at 8:19 am #

      it’s the malaria excuse (or reason) i know of o.. just wait jare, when next you step Naija, u donate to us, eh, we need plenty..

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:48 am #

        That was another reason, I heard. It is said that we have natural defense to malaria that westerners don’t have and blood with those antigens may kill those with no tolerance for it.

    11. EDJ May 13, 2010 at 10:21 am #

      This isn’t racism, and it is not about BLOOD group (i.e. A, AB, O) it is about the STRAIN of HIV and concerns about HIV Strain O which is predominantly African. (at least for now).

      The problem is that HIV, as a virus, undergoes mutation every once in a while to survive. It is why it is so hard to find a cure because even if they cure Strain A, then what about B through Z?

      @lbhade, exhibiting ignorance is not the way to combat racism. What do you mean by

      “Were they not the ones sleeping with animals first? having anal sex first?….”

      So the spread of HIV is due to bestiality and anal sex. What a genius you are.

      @Lady X Perhaps your university can afford to check and recheck for a specific strain of HIV (or whatever) which is why they accept from everyone. Lilith is talking about the Red Cross here! The Red Cross is a non-profit NOT a university with the labs and facilities to screen for every and any blood characteristic. They are just a non-profit trying to cover their a$$. Its NOT personal and it is not racism. Notice it doesn’t extend to ALL African countries or ALL black people.

      • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 10:49 am #

        Haaaaaaaa EDJ take am easy now…he he he…
        I think you still dream of med school sometimes. I can just imagine you years from now giving your residents hell just like Dr. Bailey on Greys anatomy.

        • EDJ May 13, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

          Haha nah. I can put my yelling skills to better use as an executive. I feel bad for my assistant.

          Btw, in answer to your question, Alpa Chino is Naija. It doesn’t stop my parents from disliking him though. Why? Because he is from Imo and I am from Anambra. The madness never ends.

          • lucidlilith May 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

            he he he…wonders shall never end! You know what? You should plan with alpa to pretend to break up. Then show up with your new boyfriend. He should be a white punk rocker with black eyeliner, lots of makeup, chains and black leather. Tell them you are in love with this one and that you guys will be getting married in a few months.

            Go home. Then wait for all hell to break loose.

            I bet they will welcome Alpa with open arms the next time he shows up. 😀

    12. Lady X May 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

      EDJ: I never said my University checks the blood. They just provide a venue for the blood donation drive. I’m not entirely sure where the blood goes. And I did notice that it doesn’t extend to all black people but thank you for pointing it out once more. Fine. Let’s say its not racist. Its still a stupid rule. People can lie about being with someone from that region. So its not foolproof. If someone lies about it there is no way for them to know the person is lying. Should they even be using blood they can’t “afford to check and recheck” as you said? That doesn’t sound safe. Which is the whole point of the screening process. To ensure the blood is safe.

      • EDJ May 14, 2010 at 10:27 am #

        I agree completely that they SHOULD be screening for EVERYTHING. But, as you may know, people have gotten HIV through blood transfusions so this is not always the case. Red Cross or otherwise.

        I agree it is a stupid rule, but it is their way of donor screening and until we reach the days when they can do instant blood analysis, its the only way they have. If someone lies about it there IS no way to know but when they test the blood and find something it gets thrown away. I guess in order to avoid “wasting blood” they tell certain people not to bother. Technically the Red Cross doesn’t “give” blood. They store it so that when hospitals need it, there is storage available. Those hospitals are then responsible for checking and re-checking.

    13. Myne Whitman May 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

      IMO, it is laziness and discrimination. Being born in Western Africa does not predispose one to any particular strain of HIV, it is behavior and lifestyle/choices. If a white guy who has contracted HIV strain O while living in Nigeria comes to donate blood, will they turn him away? There are better ways of screening for blood donations and geographical locations is not it. By accepting this, we allow the red cross to get away with discrimination and those charities that emulate them. What also happens is that these kind of rules make us develop and spread the apathy for donating blood and other health serums among our community. This means that the times when you as an African needs blood whereby your closest matches come from people of same race and region; you do not get any because many have been prevented from donating. Seun’s case comes to mind. He has cancer and needs bone marrow, unfortunately there are no matches for him and he has to campaign himself for Africans to come forward. If the red cross cannot afford the screenings, why not collect the bloood and forward to other agencies that can do it?

      • EDJ May 14, 2010 at 10:38 am #

        I’m going to have to point out that bone marrow transplants and blood transfusions are two separate things. Also, I do not believe that Seun would appreciate swapping a cancer ridden bone marrow with one that has HIV because the hospital was afraid of “insulting” somebody.

        I am not saying everyone in West/Central Africa has HIV-O BUT living in a certain area pre-disposes you to certain things. It is an unfortunate fact of life. If it were malaria under discussion nobody would argue with the Red Cross’ decision. Why get offended now? HIV-O is not the ONLY strain that is specific to a certain region. There is another strain which is specific to a certain area of Asia and another strain specific to North America.

        THIS IS NOT PERSONAL. If scientists are able to come up with a way to correctly screen blood for the HIV-O type the same way they have been able to screen for the North American strain then all of the West/Central Africans that are itching to donate blood can do so. This type HIV-O is tied to areas of high malaria and they are just trying to screen people. That is all. It is not discrimination or laziness.

    14. Sugabelly May 13, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

      The same thing happened to me. I even did a post about it. There I was all happy to donate blood and they told the guy in front of me that if he’d ever been to Africa or had sex with an African then he couldn’t donate blood.

      Yay racism!

      • EDJ May 14, 2010 at 10:40 am #

        Not racism. Like I said, they are only just beginning to study the strains of HIV out of Africa and when they understand these types fully then their screening procedures will make more sense. Until then, this is all they have.

    15. Caramel Delight May 18, 2010 at 6:02 am #

      Yup, in London I got turned away at university because of the malaria reason. I hadn’t heard about this HIV one though.

    16. justjoxy May 18, 2010 at 8:45 am #

      What EDJ said.

    17. Tomi May 21, 2010 at 12:33 am #

      Copied From _http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/insite?page=ask-01-07-29

      Question

      I served in the Peace Corps in West Central Africa. When I tried to give blood recently I was denied because of HIV-1 Group O or Subtype O that has been recently discovered. I have been tested for HIV twice…once as I came home from Africa and most recently with a pregnancy (that was 3 years after coming home). How concerned should I be about this new clade and how long before reliable testing is available?

      Answer

      Thanks for your question. I learned a lot while researching the answer.

      People are denied for blood donation in the US if they have spent any time in a place where malaria is endemic. This includes regions of the world where outlying subtypes of HIV-1, such as group O can be found (Cameroon, Benin, and other Central African countries).

      Different Types of HIV

      Since the advent of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique it is possible to type different strains of HIV. We know that HIV-1 is more virulent than HIV-2 and is the predominant strain around the world. To date, HIV-2 is found principally in West Africa, and constitutes a small minority of infections in other parts of Africa, South America and West India.

      Two major groups of HIV-1 exist, “M” and “O” (for outlier). The virus that causes the great majority of HIV-1 infections diagnosed and studied in the world are in the M group (which is further subdivided into subtypes A through H. There has been a lot of concern over subtype E (predominant in Thailand) which is thought to be easier to transmit via sexual contact than the subtype predominant in the US, subtype B).

      The O group includes a small number of isolates discovered in Africa. These are genetically quite distant from the M group, and consequently may not show up on some standard laboratory tests for HIV-1. PCR tests on stored samples show that group O has been around for at least 30 years.

      Group O and HIV Screening

      The issue of HIV Group O is not that new. Concerns over the ability of HIV tests in the US to detect these strains were raised in the early 1990s, before the first reported case in the US was identified in 1996. The patient was a woman with swollen lymph nodes and a low CD4 count who had recently returned from Central Africa, where she had lived for several years. She had tested negative on several HIV tests and was later found to have Group O subtype. Nonetheless, when the CDC did further testing of her blood samples to see how well currently available test kits detected group O, they found that four out of five (80%) of the tests tested positive. This report raises some questions about the sample quality for those specimens that tested negative.

      Why we don’t need to worry about group O

      If we take into account the pre-donation screening of people who have lived in malarial countries, and the apparent rarity of group O in the US and the world (only 6% worldwide), and that 80% of those that make it through will be detected, we have good reason to believe that the US blood supply is safe. Since this report, HIV test manufacturers have been tweaking their tests to make them more sensitive to group O. Until they can claim 100%, the FDA does not allow them to make any claims about being able to detect group O (say 80%). The Abbott representative I spoke with said that the cross reactivity for an HIV 1/2 “combination” test was “pretty decent.” But a basic HIV 1 (not combination) test cannot make any claims to detect group O. Blood banks use combination tests, while many test clinics use HIV 1 tests. One problem in developing tests for these is the lack of samples of group O positive blood, since this is so rare in the US and even in Africa. New tests currently being reviewed by the FDA must be sensitive to Group O, so anynew tests that will hit the US market in the next few years, for example Abbott’s new Determine rapid test, are known to detect 100% of Group O.

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