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Blood Bank for Abstainers and the Monogamous Draws Fire

February 20, 1988

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The organizer of a planned blood bank for chaste donors says he hopes to expand into a national network of Christian blood banks, a plan one physician called a dangerous attempt to capitalize on fear of AIDS.

Dr. Condon Hughes said he hopes to open LifeBlood, a Christian blood bank that will not accept promiscuous donors, by early April. Blood donors will be asked to sign a statement confirming they have abstained from sex or been faithful to a spouse since 1977.

The blood also will be tested for AIDS and other blood-borne viruses, Hughes said.

″My intention is to inform heterosexuals that if they have more than one faithful partner that they are at risk of developing a deadly disease ... and to provide blood from people who do not fall into that category,″ Hughes said.

But Dr. Ronald Gilcher, of the Oklahoma Blood Institute, said Hughes inaccurately implies that LifeBlood’s supply will be safer than other blood banks.

And U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Susan Cruzan noted that the FDA’s list of risk categories does not include promiscuous heterosexuals.

″What we see this doing is undermining the donor base ... confusing people, creating distrust and a lack of credibility,″ Gilcher said. ″We think that is a dangerous thing.″

″I commend what he’s doing in the sense of trying to create a safer blood supply because that’s what we’re all doing, but the method by which Dr. Hughes is trying to do this I think is unsound,″ Gilcher said. ″I think it’s dangerous because it could create a lack of availability of blood products.″

Gilcher said existing blood banks already screen donors and test donated blood.

″The blood supply is safe, but it’s not 100 percent safe,″ Gilcher said. ″There is no such thing as a zero risk. The public wants a zero risk, but it doesn’t exist.″

Gilcher said Hughes’ exclusion of heterosexuals who have had more than one partner since 1977 relies on the honesty of the donor and the honesty of the donor’s sexual partner. He said it also dangerously limits the pool of potential donors.

But Hughes said he thinks chaste and faithful donors can supply the nation with blood.

″Five percent of the nation provides the blood for the entire nation,″ Hughes said. ″I am confident that there is 5 percent of the nation that is chaste. Our goal is to identify those individuals and encourage them to give blood, take a stand for morality and administer the love of Christ through blood donations.″

AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is an affliction in which a virus attacks the body’s immune system, leaving victims susceptible to a wide variety of infections and cancers. One method of transmission is through infected blood or blood products.

The FDA requires all blood banks to provide potential donors with information about AIDS and ask them to refrain from donating if they fall into certain risk categories.

″The FDA constantly reviews categories,″ Cruzan said. ″The category of promiscuous heterosexuals was discussed in 1986. Epidemiologists concluded at that time that the heterosexual spread of HIV (the AIDS virus) was not a significant reason to exclude this category.″

Hughes said he plans to sell blood on a first-come, first-served basis regardless of religion or sexual activity. For a fee, donors will be allowed to have their own blood frozen for their own use.

″The cost of the blood is going to be determined primarily by the number of donors that we have. We hope it will be comparable to the (non-profit) Oklahoma Blood Institute. We may be at a disadvantage because we have to pay taxes,″ Hughes said.

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