The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that it is considering revising its policy banning blood donation by any man who has had sex with another man since 1977. The reconsideration stems from recommendations by the American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, and America's Blood Centers.
The three organizations, which are responsible for the collection of virtually all of the blood used for transfusions nationwide, requested the change at a March 8 th workshop convened by the FDA to review the latest scientific information regarding the safety of nation's blood supply. The groups argued that current tests and screening methods have improved enough to protect transfusion recipients without the lifetime ban and suggested that men should be barred from donating for only one year after having sex with another man. This treats men who have sex with men the same as other groups who are at increased risk for spreading a sexually transmitted disease through donated blood.1
The FDA implemented the lifetime ban for gay men in the mid-1980s when many questions remained about the transmission HIV and the reliability of blood screening methods. According to Red Cross spokesman Ryland Dodge, the accuracy of testing has improved substantially, as have questions that all donors are required to answer in order to identify those who pose a greater risk. “We strongly support the use of rational, scientifically based deferral policies, and we want them to be applied fairly and consistently,” said Dodge.2
FDA Spokesman Stephen King said that agency officials are “definitely interested in hearing all the science, and if there's hard evidence in place that changing the policy would not endanger the blood supply they're definitely open to it.” King said the agency will convene a meeting of its Blood Products Advisory Committee later this year to formally reconsider the policy.3
- Rob Stein, “FDA to Review Ban on Gay Men Donating Blood,” Washington Post, 18 March 2006, A06.