As hundreds lined up to give blood in response to Sunday morning’s Pulse nightclub shooting, they discovered that the FDA’s rules governing blood donations from gay men are still in effect.
Despite rumors, OneBlood, which collects and distributes blood donations, per FDA regulations, is still not accepting blood donations from gay men. “All FDA guidelines remain in effect for blood donation. There are false reports circulating that FDA rules were being lifted. Not true,” wrote OneBlood on Twitter.
HIV/AIDS activist Michael Rajner said the 12-month deferment period is highlighted and made all the more hurtful by the tragedy in Orlando – one that prevents healthy gay men from helping their own community when needed or forces them to lie to do the right thing. “We are discriminated against unjustly through a homophobic policy by the FDA.”
Previously, the FDA had instituted a lifetime ban on men who were sexually active with other men but altered that policy in 2015. The American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers opposed the lifetime ban as being “medically and scientifically unjustified.”
According to the FDA, men are prohibited from donating if they had sex with another man in the past 12 months. Women must also wait 12 months to donate if they had sex with a man who has had sex with another man. The rules put gay men on par with other groups the FDA considers to be high risk for HIV/AIDS, including individuals with a history intravenous drug use and those who have received transfusions of whole blood or blood products.
“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,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in an online statement. “Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the U.S. population. We will continue to actively conduct research in this area and further revise our policies as new data emerge.”
But while the National Gay Blood Drive, an organization focused on giving the LGBT equal treatment in blood donation opportunities, applauded the move as a step in the right direction but asked the FDA to go further.
“While this is a big success, there is still a long road ahead and a lot of work to do. We will continue to encourage the FDA to consider all the evidence until they arrive at a non-discriminatory policy and discrimination based on sexual orientation is eliminated from the blood deferral process altogether,” reads National Gay Blood Drive’s December 2015 statement.
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