FDA releases new draft policy which would allow gay men to donate blood after one year of celibacy
Following through with an announcement made by the Obama administration in December of last year, the FDA has released details on a new policy which could allow gay men to donate blood, undoing a lifetime ban which had been in place for decades.
Currently, if you are a man who has had sex with a man (MSM) after 1977, you are not allowed to donate blood.
This concern is rooted in concerns over the transmission of HIV/AIDS, as MSM populations continue to be at high risk for the infection.
Although MSM represent a small percentage of the U.S. male population (approximately 7% of men report that they have ever participated in MSM activity and approximately 4% of men report that they engaged in MSM activity in the last 5 years 1 ), they comprise a large proportion of adults in the United States with existing and newly diagnosed HIV infections.
Among persons living with HIV in 2011, CDC estimates that 57% were MSM (including MSM who were also IDU).
MSM remain at increased risk of HIV infection. In 2010, male-to-male sexual contact accounted for 63% of newly diagnosed HIV infections among adults, and 78% of newly diagnosed HIV infections in men, indicating that male-to-male sexual contact remains associated with high risk of HIV exposure (Ref. 28).
There are many other reasons a person cannot donate blood. If you’ve gotten a tattoo in the last year, ever been involved in commercial sex work, or ever used intravenous drugs, for example.
And, for the curious, women who have had sex with a MSM (a bisexual man) are also currently banned from donating blood, though that policy would also change to less than a year if this draft passes.
The new policy suggested by the FDA, MSMs would be allowed to donate blood if it’s been a year (12 months) since they’ve had sex with another man.
Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, and America’s Blood Centers released a joint statement yesterday praising the FDA’s new policy, saying the 1-year limit is something they’ve supported since 2006, and calling the old policy medically and scientifically unwarranted.
“The top priorities of the blood banking community are the safety of our volunteer blood donors and the ultimate recipients of blood… This change in policy would align the donor deferral period for MSM with criteria for other activities that may pose a similar risk of transfusion-transmissible infections.”
The Human Rights Campaign has similarly hailed the FDA’s new policy.
“While the new policy is a step in the right direction toward an ideal policy that reflects the best scientific research, it still falls far short of a fully acceptable solution because it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “This policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply. It simply cannot be justified in light of current scientific research and updated blood screening technology.”
The FDA is taking comment on the new policy for the next 60 days and will come back with a result from that period in the following weeks.
Check out this video below from December of last year which details concerns over blood donation from both sides:
The American Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks have characterized the blood ban as medically and scientifically unwarranted.November 14, 2014
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