US moves to allow blood donations from gay men
WASHINGTON — Federal health officials are recommending an end to the nation’s lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, a 31-year-old policy that many medical groups and gay activists say is no longer justified [even though the vast majority of men with AIDS are homosexuals].
The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it favors replacing the blanket ban with a new policy barring donations from men who have had gay sex in the previous year [which is completely based off “trust”].
FDA officials said that policy is supported by research and would put the US in line with other countries including Australia, Japan and the UK.
All blood donations are screened for HIV, however, the test only detects the virus after it’s been in the bloodstream about 10 days. That allows a brief window when the virus that causes AIDS can go undetected.
According to government figures, men who have had sex with other men represent about 2 percent of the US population, yet account for at least 62 percent of all new HIV infections in the US.
Tuesday’s announcement is the culmination of years of government discussions re-examining the ban. Last month a panel of blood safety experts convened by the Department of Health and Human Services voted 16-2 in favor of doing away with the lifetime ban. The panel recommended moving to a one-year ban, which bars donors who have had male-on-male sex during the previous 12 months.
Some gay activists said Tuesday that policy remains unrealistic and will still “stigmatize” gay and bisexual men.
“Some may believe this is a step forward, but in reality, requiring celibacy for a year is a de facto lifetime ban,” the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a New York-based nonprofit organization that supports AIDS prevention and care, said after the announcement.
The FDA implemented the ban in 1983, when health officials were first recognizing the risk of contracting AIDS via blood transfusions. Under the policy, blood donations are barred from any man who has had sex with another man at any time since 1977 — the start of the AIDS epidemic in the US.