For decades, gay men have been barred from donating blood. But after studying the scientific evidence, regulators are now lifting that ban.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will end the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The agency recommends allowing gay men to donate blood if they have not had sexual contact in a year.
In a statement, the FDA said it “carefully examined and considered the available scientific evidence” to make this policy change. “The agency will take the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men from indefinite deferral to one year since the last sexual contact.”
The FDA plans to issue a draft of the proposed change in 2015.
HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system and can lead to AIDS. AIDS is the final stage of the infection. Patients can become infected through the infected blood or bodily fluids of HIV patients.
The ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men has been in place since the 1980s, when knowledge of HIV/AIDS was limited and fears were high.
Rob Stein of NPR reported that advocates have been pushing to end this policy for years, claiming it is “outdated and discriminatory.”
The FDA’s recommended policy change likely will not be the end of the debate. While many gay rights groups have welcomed the change, some believe the one-year ban is still unnecessary and offensive.
“At the same time, others are concerned any change could let a small number of HIV-positive donors slip through the screening system,” Stein said.
According to The New York Times, The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, calculated that the policy change would increase the nation’s annual blood supply by 2 to 4 percent, or about 317,000 pints of blood per year.