The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday that gay men will now be able to donate blood but only if they had not han a man on man sexual experience for one year.
The proposal will be introduced early next year to end a ban that has been in place since 1983.
Scientific evidence shows the move will not create risks for the nation’s blood supply, the FDA said. The policy change is expected to boost the supply of donated blood by hundreds of thousands of pints per year. Blood donations from gay men have been barred since the discovery that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was being transmitted through transfusions.
The FDA said it will issue draft guidance on the policy, hopefully early in 2015. It would then review the comments and issue final guidance “as quickly as possible,” Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said during a press briefing. An FDA advisory committee met this month to discuss issues around changing the policy, such as the effectiveness of new blood supply tests for HIV infections. In November, an advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended a one-year deferral. The FDA stopped short of eliminating the ban for gay men altogether. Marks said during the briefing that scientific evidence for a ban shorter than a year was not “compelling.”
While still discriminatory Corey Dubin, a member of the FDA’s Blood Products Advisory Panel and founder of the hemophiliac advocacy group the Committee of Ten Thousand (COTT) the group represents hemppheliacs who have contracted HIV/AIDS through blood transfusions is against any lifting of the ban, no matter how incremental. “With the science so far, it’s a leap of faith, No matter how you stack it, there is a risk increase.” Dubin does not have a medical background.
ACLU Legislative Representative, Ian Thompson countered:
“The FDA’s proposal must be seen as part of an ongoing process and not an end point. The reality for most gay and bisexual men — including those in committed, monogamous relationships — is that this proposal will continue to function as a de facto lifetime ban. Criteria for determining blood donor eligibility should be based on science, not outdated, discriminatory stereotypes and assumptions.” The FDA blood donation policy, which has been in place since 1983, prohibits any man who has had sex with another man, even one time, since 1977 from donating blood. The American Civil Liberties Union previously submitted comments urging the FDA to reassess its policy based on current scientific evidence.
The question still remains though who is going to be the celibacy police?