FDA Ends Lifetime Ban on Gay, Bisexual Male Blood Donors

By Cheri Cheng - 21 Dec '15 14:30PM

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has lifted a lifetime ban that prevented men who have sex with other men from donating blood on Monday. The ban was created about 30 years ago as a way to stop HIV, the incurable virus that leads to AIDS, from spreading.

The FDA stated that it decided to get rid of the ban after it "carefully examined the most recent available scientific evidence to support the current policy revision." Under the new guidelines, men who have not had sex with other men for at least 12 months will be allowed to donate blood.

"Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the U.S. population," Dr. Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA's biologics division, said in a statement.

The FDA added, "These published studies document no change in risk to the blood supply with use of the 12-month deferral. Similar data are not available for shorter deferral intervals."

The 12-month window is currently used in other countries as well, including the United Kingdom and Australia. Many people have criticized the need for a deferral period since heterosexual people, who do not need to meet this requirement, can contract HIV.

"This new policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply," David Stacy, the Human Rights Coalition's Government Affairs Director, said reported by TIME. "While it's 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."

The revised guidelines continue to ban people with blood clotting disorders, such as hemophilia, people who have tested positive for HIV and people who have had sex for money or drugs.

People who have gotten a tattoo or a piercing will have to wait a full 12-months before they can donate blood.

HIV can be transmitted via bodily fluids, such as blood and semen.

The FDA stated that its blood donation policies have lowered HIV transmission rates to one in 1.47 million.

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