FDA to allow blood donation from gay men
After 30 years, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has rescinded their ban of blood donation from gay and bisexual men– but only if they inhibit themselves from having sex with other men for one year.
Though legislators and the LGBT community have expressed gratitude on the FDA’s move, they still think the agency’s revision of the discriminating policy is still not enough.
Consequences of blood donation in the ’80s
In reaction to the AIDS crisis in the ’80s, the FDA had first implemented their blood donation policies with regard to men who have sex with men (MSM). In this case, gay men were indefinitely deferred– in other words, banned for life– from giving blood.
This is because– with the spread of HIV through the gay community in the ’80s– there were no tests for it and unscreened blood led to reported cases of blood recipients getting the virus.
With new scientific evidence and technological advances in screening for HIV that can give accurate and fast results, the FDA has decided to revise the deferral period of MSM from indefinite to 12 months since their last sexual encounter.
FDA’s revision of their blood donation policies
“The FDA’s responsibility is to maintain a high level of blood product safety for people whose lives depend on it,” said the FDA’s Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, MD.
“We have taken great care to ensure this policy revision is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply,” Ostroff said.
“In reviewing our policies to help reduce the risk of HIV transmission through blood products, we rigorously examined several alternative options, including individual risk assessment,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
“Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the US population. We will continue to actively conduct research in this area and further revise our policies as new data emerge,” Marks said.
Weighing in on the blood donation policies
“The FDA’s new policy continues the government’s troubling precedent of allowing stigma to trump science and public health when it comes to blood donations,” said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo). Polis is gay and is one of the co-chairs of the House LGBT Equality Caucus.
“It is ridiculous and counter to the public health that a married gay man in a monogamous relationship can’t give blood, but a promiscuous straight man who has had hundreds of opposite-sex partners in the last year can,” Polis said.
On the other hand, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis), called the new rules “a first step.” Baldwin is the first openly gay senator in US history and an advocate for blood-donation policy reform.
“This revision doesn’t go far enough– and I expect the FDA to maintain its commitment to work with stakeholders to develop better blood donor policies based on science,” Baldwin said.
“I will continue to push the Administration to move forward to achieve our ultimate goal of blood donation policies that are based on individual risk factors, that don’t unfairly single out one group of individuals, and that allow all healthy Americans to donate,” she added.