Blood Unsimple

LAST THURSDAY ASSISTANT Health Secretary Philip Lee announced the formation of a Blood Safety Council composed of the government's highest-level doctors to monitor the nation's blood supply. Blood. Important stuff.

It was on a Thursday last July when the austere Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences issued a long-awaited report on the nation's blood products that concluded "the absence of incentives, as well as the lack of a countervailing force to advocate blood product safety, contributed to the plasma fractionation industry's slow rate of progress."

The reason for all this imposing commotion is that over a dozen years ago leading drug companies--in concert with the Reagan health bureaucracy, a supposed watchdog organization, and with the participation of leading gay organizations--lied to the nation's hemophiliacs and wound up killing a majority of them. They said there was nothing wrong with the blood products hemophiliacs required long after they knew those products were pumping HIV to thousands of unaware victims. And they said donors didn't need to be screened for HIV at any of the blood collection centers. (In Japan and France those responsible for covering up a similarly contaminated blood supply were tracked down, and many were jailed.)

The story of one of those infected hemophiliacs, Mike Schaub, was told in City Pages on February 22. Schaub had fought off hepatitis, pneumonia, fullblown AIDS, CMV and countless drug reactions for five years. He had the kind of raw toughness that kept him from being anybody's poster boy and probably made him a long-term survivor.

And finally, last Thursday, in the early morning hours, Mike Schaub gave it up peacefully after a much tougher fight than most of us can possibly imagine or than he ever deserved.

 
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