When a Bloodmobile paid New Times a visit last week, a technician urged staffers to contribute. Plasma supplies have been depleted by Hurricane Katrina, he said, and there's a desperate need for new donors. But when a gay New Times employee stepped up and offered his blood, he was turned down. Here's the catch: Any man who's had sex with another man since 1977 is not allowed to donate.
Tailpipe realizes there are people for whom AIDS will always be a "gay disease," despite the fact that there are probably more HIV-positive heterosexuals in the world than homosexuals. But the 'Pipe thought the issue of infected blood had been dispensed with among enlightened people in the mid-1980s, when highly effective screening techniques were developed.
Not as far as the federal government is concerned. It's federal regulations that are allegedly protecting the nation's blood banks from all that tainted gay blood.
"We are not being prejudicial against the gay community," Bruce Lenes, medical director for Community Blood Centers of South Florida, insists, "even though we may appear to do so." The feds are just as particular about other groups, he adds. For example, Lenes' organization can't accept blood from people who've visited Europe for six months or more in recent years because of the theoretical risk of transmitting Mad Cow Disease from eating British beef. "Probably 0.00001 percent are at risk," says Lenes, yet the guidelines eliminate even that thin possibility.
Still, antibody screening tests for HIV-1 have been in use since 1985. In 1996, even more effective antigen test kits were approved by the Food and Drug Administration. What about those? Is it possible that Community Blood Centers is not testing all of its donated blood?
"It's all discriminatory and has been for 20 years," Mark Ketcham, former president of the Gay and Lesbian Community Centers of South Florida, says dismissively. "If you even look lustfully at another man, they're not going to take your blood. I think that's why blood donations went down after AIDS started. All gay men stopped giving blood."
Lenes suggestion: Stop bitching and do something constructive. Recruit someone in your place, he advises gays, and "you've been every bit as socially responsible as if you'd rolled up your sleeve."
Ketcham finds Lenes' notion that gay men will round up all of their nongay friends and wrangle them down to the blood bank laughable and a bit callous.
"I'm not HIV-positive, and neither is my partner," he says, "but we never try to give blood, because who wants to go through that?"
Those Miami-Dade cops are a testy bunch.
The Dade County Police Benevolent Association recently told its cops to stop talking to Channel 10 reporters for the next year, Channel 10 reporters say. The dictate came after a report by the station's "problem solver," Jeff Weinsier, who cornered a few cops who had parked in front of hydrants and in fire lanes. One even denied that he had parked illegally, then got into his cruiser, which was parked in front of a hydrant. The report got at least one cop in trouble his patrol car was taken away and spurred an angry response from the PBA.
There's now a 1,005-word article posted on the PBA's website by general counsel Blanca Torrents Greenwood. Next to the posting is a caricature of a devil with Weinsier's head on top. Greenwood's message warned cops against talking to Weinsier. "No doubt he is trying to get a reaction and will do ANYTHING to do so," Greenwood wrote. "At one point during his little story, he appears to get insulted that a cop would lie to him. Please! Who the heck made him so reverent?"
For his part, Weinsier (who lives in Broward) says the PBA's anger is misplaced. He's done plenty of stories that helped cops, he says. One of his reports, on a homeowner's association policy forbidding cop cars in driveways, got the Attorney General's Office to intervene on the part of the officers. "After doing problem solvers, I have some pretty thick skin. They can call me a douchebag or whatever they want," Weinsier says. "Any publicity is good publicity, but when you say I'm out to make police officers look bad, that's just plain wrong, and libelous."
Weinsier says Channel 10's vans have now become targets of ticket-writing cops. He says a recent violation had a message that read: "This is payback."