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Stigma-ta-dah! 

Did you know that every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion? Did you also know that until recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had rules regarding collecting "gay" blood? As if homosexuality isn't stigmatized enough, amirite?

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Well, presto-chango, because now, like magic, the FDA has decided that gay and bisexual blood is better than no blood, and that practicing homosexuals shouldn't automatically be assumed to have tainted blood. So. Much. Progress.

First, it's important to note that anyone, not just gay and bisexual men, can have HIV/AIDS or other bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis B and C, West Nile virus, or syphilis, so shouldn't all blood be tested before pumping it into ill or injured people? I understand that asking screening questions makes sense: Are you an intravenous drug user? Have you shared a needle or had sex with an intravenous drug user? Have you had multiple sexual partners in the recent past? Do you bathe in West Nile River? Do you keep pet mosquitos?

But shouldn't those questions apply to everyone donating blood and not just gay and bisexual men? Well, now they are, sort of.

"Now, the questionnaire asks all prospective donors, gender-inclusive, individual-based questions that assesses blood donor eligibility," Kevin Adler, communications manager of donation center Vitalant, said. "Even if any person has had sex with multiple sexual partners within the three-month period, they'll be asked specific questions about their sexual activity. It's not specific to a gay or bisexual man anymore."

That's good! Of course, there's always a caveat.

The old guidelines required gay men to abstain from sex for at least three months prior to donating, but now if you're in a monogamous relationship, abstention is no longer required—gay, straight, or whatever. Despite no longer asking sexuality-specific questions, the new guidelines still stress monogamy for gay and bisexual blood donors because ... why? Is it because culturally, we're still homophobic? The Vitalant questionnaire also asks donors if they had sexual contact with anyone who received "money, drugs, or other payment for sex" in the past three months. Do dinner and drinks count?

Look, just to reassure you, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says "each unit of blood donated in the United States is routinely screened for various infectious disease pathogens using FDA-approved assays." But just to un-reassure you, Adler also admits that "the tests are not 100 percent foolproof. They're tested to great accuracy, but there's a percentage of risk still involved."

On one hand, it kinda makes you wonder what all the fuss is about regarding homosexual donors. On the other, 100 percent certainty is better, right? Well, according to the Red Cross, "The risk of catching a virus or any other bloodborne infection from a blood transfusion is very low. All donated blood is thoroughly tested for HIV. There's a 1 in 2 million chance that donated blood will not only carry HIV but also infect a transfusion recipient."

Abracadabra and alakazam, don't let me be that 1 in 2 million, man!

Speaking of big numbers, it looks like Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, and Grover Beach have shelved their contentious and expensive Central Coast Blue (CCB) water recycling project for a year. What the what? Have a couple years of above average rainfall made the "powers that be" forget that California regularly experiences significant and reoccurring drought?

On March 18, the project's board of directors—Pismo Beach Mayor Ed Waage, Grover Beach Mayor Karen Bright, and Arroyo Grande City Council member Kristen Barneich—pumped the brakes on the project. Waage told The Tribune all the rain filled the local reservoirs, so ... you know, we don't need CCB now. Oh yeah? Really? You don't need to worry about future droughts anymore? There were also complaints about the project's growing costs ($93 million ballooning to $159 million!), but if you think costs will go down between now and a year from now, you must not be a student of history or economics.

At least one group is happy with this turn of events. Grassroots anti-CCB organization Grover Beach H20 led by former Mayor Debbie Peterson was adamantly opposed to the project and its cost to ratepayers. She and her group gathered sufficient signatures to put on this year's ballot an initiative to repeal Grover Beach's scheduled 20 percent rate increases over the next five years.

During the Arroyo Grande City Council meeting on April 9, uber-gadfly Julie Tacker just had to get her licks in, telling the council: "What your staff report doesn't provide you are those various agreements that your attorney just looked up. How to get out. We talked about when you went into this, where are the off-ramps? Your staff should have presented those for you tonight."

"Please don't belittle my staff and say their staff reports were less-than because they aren't jumping ahead of what we ask them to do," Mayor Caren Ray Russom responded. "They do what we ask and when we ask them."

So there! But to quote now-dead bipolar outsider singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston, "Running water, running water, what are you running from? You always seem to be on the run."

I wonder what these cities are going to do when their water runs out. Δ

The Shredder regularly donates gear oil. Grease its wheels at [email protected].

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