Maryland-based gene therapy company claims it can eliminate HIV from people with disease

By : Jeremy Williams
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American Gene Technologies (AGT), a gene and cell therapeutics company based out of Rockville, Maryland, has filed an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a new therapy which the company claims can eliminate HIV from people infected with the disease.

The treatment, which the company calls AGT103-T, is “a single-dose, lentiviral vector-based gene therapy” that is “a genetically-modified cell product made from a person’s own cells.”

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Lance Bass slams FDA’s ban on blood donations from gay men

By : MARIAH COOPER OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Lance Bass blasted the FDA’s ban on donations from gay men in frustration over not being allowed to donate blood to victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting.

“How is it STILL illegal for gays to donate blood??!!” Bass tweeted. “I want to donate and I’m not allowed.”

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Gay smokers: FDA wants you to kick the habit

By : Wire Report
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Washington (AP) – The Food and Drug Administration’s latest anti-smoking campaign takes aim at young adults in the LGBT community, who officials say are nearly twice as likely to use tobacco as their peers.

The $35.7 million effort targets the estimated 40 percent of 2 million LGBT young adults in the U.S. who occasionally smoke. Dubbed “This Free Life,” the campaign will begin running print, digital and outdoor advertising in 12 markets this week. The ads use the slogan “Freedom to be, Tobacco-Free,” and are aimed at adults ages 18 to 24.

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Blood sculpture draws attention to FDA ban on gay donors

By : Wire Report
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NEW YORK (AP) — An art installation opening in New York City draws attention to a federal ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

“Blood Mirror” by Jordan Eagles uses blood donated by nine gay and bisexual men. It’s encased in resin.

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FDA releases plan to ease restrictions on gay blood donation

By : Wire Report
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is outlining its plan to end the nation’s lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, a 32-year-old policy that many medical groups and gay activists say is no longer justified.

The FDA on May 12 released proposed guidelines for screening blood donors at increased risk of carrying HIV. Under the proposal, the current blanket ban on donations from gay men would be replaced with a policy barring donations from men who have had sex with another man in the last year. The Obama administration previously announced the policy shift in December.

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FDA advisers raise concerns about lifting ban on gay blood donors

By : Wire Report
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Government health advisers have concerns about lifting a nationwide ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, despite growing pressure against the policy from gay rights advocates, medical experts and blood banks.

The ban dates from the first years of the AIDS epidemic and was intended to protect the U.S. blood supply from exposure to the little-understood disease. But many medical groups, including the American Medical Association, say the policy is no longer supported by science, given advances in HIV testing. And gay activists say the lifetime ban is discriminatory and perpetuates negative stereotypes against homosexual men.

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Iowa woman calls for lift of FDA donation ban

By : Wire Report
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – An Iowa mom is speaking out against the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on donations of some tissue from gay men after her son died and some of his organs were rejected.

Sheryl Moore of Pleasant Hill was told that some of her son’s tissues wouldn’t be donated because his sexual history was unclear, The Des Moines Register reported.

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Despite opposition, ban on gay men donating blood endures

By : Wire Report
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New York (AP) – The U.S. gay-rights movement has achieved many victories in recent years – on marriage, military service and other fronts. Yet one vestige of an earlier, more wary era remains firmly in place: the 30-year-old nationwide ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.

Dating from the first years of the AIDS epidemic, the ban is a source of frustration to many gay activists, and also to many leading players in the nation’s health and blood-supply community who have joined in calling for change.

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4.25.13 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshotWhen I saw the events following the Boston Marathon unfolding on cable news April 15, horror, anger and sadness were soon replaced with an urge to help. But the easiest way in which I could help – donating blood – isn’t available to me. Why? Because I’m gay.

The important, easy act is not possible for me, and that means somewhere, someone who needs what flows in my veins is suffering.

When I was a sophomore in high school I donated blood for the first time. The familiar gymnasium where I played basketball games and discovered my first awkward feelings for other boys during gym class was transformed into what could only be described as a happy MASH unit. Reclining deck chairs were readily attended to by men and women in white scrubs and Red Cross volunteer T-shirts.

I admit I was apprehensive about donating. I always avoided needles when I could and the thought of willingly draining part of myself into a plastic bag disturbed me. But a few friends who had donated before convinced me it was the right thing to do, and the reward of orange juice, free sugar cookies and a free pass from part of a class made the pain of a needle in my arm for a few minutes bearable.

I soon found myself seated with a clipboard-wielding volunteer who whipped through a questionnaire at record speed. She seemed to anticipate every single answer and frantically marked down my responses to move me through the line.
Admittedly, the only question I really remember was when she asked me if I had ever had sex with another male.

I am sure my face registered the shock I felt at the question and I know I laughed when I answered with a forceful, “No.”

My answer was true – at that point in my life I hadn’t experienced sex with anyone – but the questions burned in my head as I sat in the recliner, squeezed a stress ball and watched the blood trickle down an IV tube and into a clear plastic bag. Was the question another sign that the feelings I was battling so hard were wrong? If I ever acted on the attractions I had toward my male classmates, would I immediately be shunned by the medical community?

The message I heard was loud and clear – same-sex attraction was unhealthy, both physically and mentally. As an impressionable teen, it scared me.

Ever since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, the FDA has banned men who have sex with men from donating blood. The precaution was necessary, and even prudent, in the early days of the disease’s discovery. But times have changed, and medical technology and research have advanced to the point that the ban is antiquated.

I continued to donate blood to the Red Cross whenever the volunteers would show up at the school – typically twice a year – and did so through my first two years of college. Besides the benefit of a sugar rush and missed class time, I realized by donating I actually helped a stranger somewhere who needed something of which I had plenty. My blood would help save a life. My blood would keep someone’s loved one on this planet for awhile longer. And I knew my body could always make more to replace what I was able to give.

During my junior year of college, I finally acted on my same-sex attraction. Like so many, it came after months of internal debate, and one of the things I knew I would lose was my ability to help others through blood donation.
When the Red Cross returned to my college campus, my regular enthusiasm was missed by my friends. Since very few people knew of my sexuality, I shared that I just didn’t have time to donate.

That was 15 years ago, and I haven’t been able to donate since.

I haven’t thought about the ban much over the years. It was just something I accepted. But the cover story in this issue of Watermark reminded me of the pride I had when I did donate, and I hope that in the near future, I’ll be able to do so again, whether or not we’re faced with a national tragedy.