The blood donor ban has been lifted in the United States for gay men, to be replaced with a partial ban. In the past, any man who has had sex with another man would be banned from donating blood for a lifetime. Now, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had determined that it is still safe for a man to donate under these circumstances, provided it’s been 12 full months since the last sexual encounter.
“The FDA is changing its recommendation that men who have sex with men (MSM) be indefinitely deferred… to 12 months since the last sexual contact with another man,” the administration announced Monday.
The FDA’s ban on blood donations from those who have had sex with someone of the same gender was implemented in 1983, during the start of the AIDS crisis. Little was known about the spread of the lifelong disease, but there were several indicators to show that same-gender intercourse could increase the risk of developing AIDS and HIV. As a result, gay and lesbian donors and any other experimenters were banned from donating blood.
The motion to move away from this ban has been in progress for several years. Some researchers have been stuck in the old ways, refusing to budge on the issue, even though new research has come to light lessening the impact of same-gender intimacy. Others have been fighting to recognize this research and make changes in FDA policy accordingly.
Kelsey Louie, CEO for Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), is one of those active supporters who’s seeking to improve equality for gays and lift superstitious bans. GMHC is currently the nation’s leader in healthcare for those with AIDS and HIV.
“The United States government has to stop reacting to HIV like it is the early 1980s. It is time for the FDA to implement a policy that is truly based on science, not blanket bans on certain groups of people,” Louie told CNN.
It’s been stated that this is a step in the right direction, but there’s still much work to be done in order to equalize gay men’s health rights. Dr. Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, says that there’s still risk involved for men who have had sex with another man in the last 12 months developing AIDS and HIV, and for that reason, a partial ban is required.
The FDA is continuing to work towards a solution that’s more acceptable to all involved. Marks stated that there’s a possibility that individuals will be allowed to donate blood based on their individual health status.
“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,” Marks said.
The FDA is working towards a solution of this kind, but it may take a few more years before they can develop enough evidence and sound processing solutions in order to keep their blood supply uncontaminated without at least a partial blood donor ban for the LGBT community.
[Image via Oleksandr Berezko/Shutterstock]