The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Tuesday plans to remove the long-standing prohibition on blood donations from gay men.
As a result of consistent pressure from gay rights advocacy groups, the FDA has spent the past few years reviewing the scientific literature relating to gay men donating blood. After consultations with the Department of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability, the FDA has agreed that a change is needed. Soon, instead of facing a permanent deferral, gay men who abstain from sex with other men for a year will be able to donate blood.
In the meantime, the FDA is working with the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute to implement a massive blood surveillance system nationwide, in order to determine the effects of the new policy change after it’s put in place. However, the proposed change is not yet finalized. In 2015, the FDA will release draft guidance advocating for the new regulation. There will be a period where the public and all relevant stakeholders can comment.
“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,” the FDA’s press release stated.
At the FDA’s Blood Products Advisory Committee last month, gay activist Richard Dedor testified that gay men often lie on blood donation forms, anyway, in spite of the ban.
“Others in my exact same situation do lie because they believe so vehemently that they have the right — forget the right, the ability — to keep the blood supply and the bone marrow supply safe,” Dedor said, according to The Hill. “We have the ability to help save lives.”
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that in 2010, 63 percent of new HIV infections in the United States came from men who have sex with other men. However, the America Medical Association (AMA) and other groups still think that the blood ban is based on unwarranted science. The AMA voted in 2013 to kill the ban.
Gay rights advocacy groups are disturbed that the prohibition will not completely be done away with in 2015, but last month Ryan James Yezak of the National Gay Blood said that it’s “only a matter of time” before all conditions surrounding gay men donating blood are left in the past.
Family Research Council senior fellow Peter Sprigg argued before the Blood Products Advisory Committee, urging the FDA to “oppose any change in the current lifetime deferral as blood donors of men who have had sex with men, unless it can be scientifically proven that a revised policy would result in no increase in risk to the blood supply. Even a small increase in risk is unacceptable.”
“The very small size of this population means that any potential benefit to the quantity of blood supplies would be marginal,” Sprigg added.
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