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BY BTL STAFF
WASHINGTON D.C. – Federal health officials announced Dec. 21 that they are lifting the nation’s 32-year-old lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, but major restrictions will remain on who can donate.
The administration announced that the FDA is to change its recommendations from an indefinite donation ban for men who have sex with men to an updated policy that allows MSMs who have not had intercourse with another man in the last 12 months to donate. While the policy has been criticized by activists, the FDA stance is in line of that of other countries, including Australia and the U.K.
“This new policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply,” said David Stacy, HRC’s government affairs director. “While it’s a step in the right direction toward an ideal policy that reflects the best scientific research, it still falls far short of a fully acceptable solution because it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men. It simply cannot be justified in light of current scientific research and updated blood screening technology. We are committed to working towards an eventual outcome that both minimizes risk to the blood supply and treats gay and bisexual men with the respect they deserve.”
Medical groups and gay activists have long said the ban could no longer be justified based on modern testing methods. However, the FDA said that the change is “backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply.”
The final guidance also includes clarification for transgender donors. The FDA’s previous proposal would have enabled medical directors to “exercise discretion with regard to donor eligibility.” The final guidance recommends that “in the context of the donor history questionnaire, male or female gender should be self-identified and self-reported for the purpose of blood donation.”
The American Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers and the American Association of Blood Banks have characterized the blood ban as medically and scientifically unwarranted as far back as 2006.