Documentary Traces Children's AIDS; Hemophiliacs Infected by 'Bad Blood'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Documentary Traces Children's AIDS; Hemophiliacs Infected by 'Bad Blood'


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In the spirit of never forget, a documentary about how thousands of American hemophiliacs became infected with the emerging AIDS virus is being released publicly Wednesday in honor of World AIDS Day.

During the 1980s, as children with hemophilia mysteriously fell ill, public health officials realized that the deadly AIDS virus was being transmitted by a blood product used to manage the children's rare blood-clotting disease.

That groundbreaking discovery became the pivotal turning point in all HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and research efforts, said Marilyn Ness, director and producer of Bad Blood: A Cautionary Tale.

However, due to ignorance, bureaucratic dithering and corporate expediency, about 90 percent of hemophiliacs became infected with HIV and 100 percent became infected with Hepatitis C. This was the worst medical disaster in U.S. history, Ms. Ness said.

More than half of the HIV-infected hemophiliacs, including Ryan White and Ricky Ray, died of AIDS.

This past summer, the issue of blood safety and donor policy regarding men who have sex with men (MSM) became a hot topic again.

Currently, men who have had sex with a man, even once since 1977, are permanently deferred from donating blood. (Lesbians are free to donate as long as they are not in other deferred categories.)

Gay-rights groups have long protested this lifetime ban on MSM, saying it perpetuates the stereotype that gay men are a threat to public health. This year, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and more than 40 members of Congress asked the Food and Drug Administration to reconsider this donor policy.

In June, a federal panel met to consider changing the MSM policy. They agreed in a 9-6 vote to keep the current policy, but agreed to conduct research to create a road map forward for future change.

Blood safety is not a one-time event, said Mark Skinner, president of the World Federation of Hemophilia, who personally lives with severe hemophilia and with HIV and hepatitis infections derived from contaminated blood transfusions.

Today, the American blood supply is as safe as it's ever been, but, as Bad Blood shows, the nation needs to have continual vigilance - we should not forget or become complacent. …

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