Politics & Government

FDA wants to lift lifetime ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will move next year to abolish a decades-old ban that bars gay and bisexual men from donating blood due to concerns about HIV and AIDS transmission.

The new FDA proposal, announced Tuesday, would instead require these men to wait a year after sexual contact with another man before they could donate blood.

An advisory committee of the Department of Health and Human Services recommended the new policy, which is already in effect in Australia, Britain and Japan.

In a blog post on Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the new policy “will better align the (waiting period to donate) with that of other men and women at increased risk for HIV infection.”

After several years of reviewing scientific and epidemiological data, the FDA will craft the new proposal next year and seek public input on the plan before deciding whether to implement it.

“We encourage all stakeholders to take this opportunity to provide any information the agency should consider, and look forward to receiving and reviewing these comments,” Hamburg wrote.

Working with the National Institute of Health’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the FDA will also develop a national blood system surveillance plan to monitor the effects of policy changes on the safety of America’s blood supply.

Men who have had sex with other men since 1977 – the start of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. – are currently barred as U.S. blood donors because they are at higher risk for HIV, AIDS and other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion. The FDA implemented the policy in 1983.

But in the years since, groups like The American Association of Blood Banks, American Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers and the American Medical Association have all endorsed changing the policy from a lifetime deferral to a one-year deferral.

In a statement on Tuesday, Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer at the American Red Cross, said the FDA’s proposed change is “consistent with the Red Cross position that the current lifetime deferral is unwarranted.”

“The American Red Cross believes all potential blood donors should be treated with fairness, equality and respect, and that accurate donor histories and medically supported donor deferral criteria are critical to the continued safety of blood transfusion,” Benjamin added.

For more infromation about the proposal, go to http://1.usa.gov/1zfE3eH