So, Tuesday night saw a live version of the Pod Delusion, a sort of podcast version of FOOC from a skeptic view point. They have had a weekly audio programme for the last year built up of short contributions from a variety of people, including me, and were celebrating their birthday by doing what they usually do in front of a live pub audience.
Despite the travel, I jumped at the opportunity and dusted off my gay blood ban material and added in a few jokes that would not have been appropriate last time I used it in Full Council.
It went very well. People laughed a lot. They laughed at the jokes I wrote and even found some of the other bits funny too.
There’s a blog post with some videos in it here, and the one of me is below.
(“I’m up here!”)
The full piece will doubtless be available as an audio file on this week’s Pod Delusion, along with some sterling other contributors and ending up with some jolly songs.
The bit of the evening I was dreading most was the questions, but in fact two good points were raised.
Firstly part of my speech included referring to Typhoid Mary, and someone in the audience rightly picked me up in that. Whilst in common parlance Typhoid Mary just means pariah, I had just a few weeks ago read the WP page for Typhoid Mary, and the real story is much worse, and wholly inappropriate for use in the gay blood campaign. What’s worse still is that I knew that! Typhoid Mary was a healthy carrier of Typhoid Fever. She was not ill herself, but was able to infect others. Through her work as a cook she infected at least 50 other people, three of whom died. She refused to believe she was infectious, and spent at least part of her life behind bars.
So, she was infected but didn’t know it, refused to comply with the health-based rules, and ended up infecting and causing the deaths of others. Really, really not the sort of case to invoke in the arguments around the gay blood ban.
The second question was around HIV incidence and who was the largest group of people now being infected. I wasn’t sure on the night and the questionner has subsequently got in touch on Twitter with two documents of interesting data which a) show that heterosexual infections are now more common than gay ones and b) although there are now more gay men being diagnosed HIV+, a higher rate of diagnosis probably doesn’t mean higher incidence, just that more of those who have it, know about it.
From Blood Service’s point of view the fact that the straight infections count for a larger proportion of new infections is probably not helpful to the arguments around the gay blood ban, because the group of straight people is much bigger than the group of gay people. So incidence amongst gay men is around 5% whilst in straight people as a whole it’s probably only 0.001%.
The third question was “do you have to have anal sex to catch HIV.” No you don’t, but it helps.
Perhaps the most touching thing to happen was after I got home. I start my schtick talking about the Anthony Nolan Trust and the bone marrow register. I’ve signed up, and given a saliva sample – and just last week received my donor pack.
This, and carrying a donor card, I do partly because it’s right, and partly “pour encourager les autres.” If some parts of the NHS are happy to deal with gay men, that should be encouraged.
It’s probably quite unlikely my number will come up and they find someone who’s a match who needs my bone marrow. But if they do, I will do what I promised to, and go to London for medical treatment and donate bone marrow. Most of the time, that’s a fairly simple course of injections followed by sitting hooked up to a machine a bit like a dialysis machine. More rarely, it involves an operation.
The person who got in touch after I got home wanted to thank me for signing up with the Anthony Nolan Trust – because he was a leukaemia survivor, who was only still alive thanks to bone marrow donation. His came from a sibling rather than the register, but it was still a really interesting story he sent me.
He has blogged about it, and you can read his moving story, intricately woven into his atheism, here.
So, look out for the Pod Delusion Live recording when it comes out tomorrow. Here are a few links to past recordings I’ve done too: