A federal panel voted, on Nov. 13, to partially lift a 31-year ban on accepting blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The advisory panel to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability examined data and listened to testimony from critics of the ban, including the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Criteria for being a blood donor should be based on science, not discriminatory stereotypes and assumptions. It is promising to see that the U.S. appears poised to move away from the current lifetime ban that prevents gay and bisexual men from donating blood. However, the proposed one-year deferral will prevent two men who maintain a committed, monogamous relationship from ever donating blood. This proposed policy does not distinguish between high risk and safer sex practices,” said A.C.L.U. legislative representative Ian Thompson.
The panel voted 16-2 in favor of allowing men who have had sex with other men to give blood after being abstinent for one year. The Food and Drug Administration is not obliged to follow the panel’s advice, although a spokeswoman for the agency said the meeting provided valuable information and perspective.
Currently, there is a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood. The FDA’s official position is gay and bisexual men are at an “increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.”
Countries such as the U.K., Canada and Australia have revised their policies to allow gay and bisexual men to give blood after a year to five years of abstinence from same-sex encounters.