FDA partially overturns ban on gays donating blood
December 21, 2015
The Food and Drug Administration is doing away with a 32-year-old policy of prohibiting men who have ever had sex with another from donating blood. On Monday, the FDA announced a new policy that allows gay and bisexual men to donate blood if they have abstained from having sex with another man for the previous year. [ABC News]
Other countries, like Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom, also have one-year ban policies. Based on data from Australia and other sources, the FDA concluded that altering it policy to a one-year abstinence requirement would not change the safety of the U.S. blood supply.
The FDA issued a statement saying the change is “backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply.”
Gay rights activists said the new policy is a step in the right direction but is still not just.
“It continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men,” said David Stacy, of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights group in the U.S. “It simply cannot be justified in light of current scientific research and updated blood screening technology.”
The FDA imposed the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men during the early years of the AIDS crisis. The ban was intended to protect the blood supply from the disease which few understood at the time.
Many medical groups, including the American Medical Association, argued science no longer supported the policy given advances in HIV testing.
All U.S. blood donations are screened for HIV. An approximately 10-day window exists, though, between initial infection and the time when the virus can be detected in the bloodstream.
The American Red Cross estimates there is approximately a 1 in 1.5 million risk for U.S. patients getting an HIV positive blood donation. A total of about 15.7 million blood donations are collected in the country yearly.
The current blood donor questionnaire asks men if they have had sex with another man since 1977, when the AIDS epidemic in the United States began. The new questionnaire will ask men if they have had sex with another man in the last 12 months.