A ban from the FDA lasting over 30 years has now been lifted, allowing gay men to donate blood – the catch is, donors are not allowed to partake in gay sex for at least 12 months prior to donating. The original ban has caused much controversy within the gay rights organizations, who believed the policy was discriminatory.
The FDA has “lifted” their ban after much review of their policies on HIV and blood to blood transmissions. The FDA’s acting commissioner, Dr. Stephen Ostroff, said, “The FDA’s responsibility is to maintain a high level of blood product safety for people whose lives depend on it. We have taken great care to ensure this policy revision is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply.”
Advancements in HIV screening, along with donor education materials and questioning, have allowed the FDA to reduce HIV transmission from one in 2,500 to one in 1.47 million.
The FDA suggests their deferral period is in line with others who have an increased risk of HIV – those who have had blood transfusions or have been accidentally exposed to other people’s blood.
Australia already has a 12-month deferral period policy in place and has found that after evaluating over eight-million units of donated blood, there was no change in risk of the blood supply.
Dr. Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, added, “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. 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.”