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FDA proposes lifting ban on gay male blood donors

Gay and bisexual men are currently barred from donating blood in an oft-criticized policy that dates back to the AIDS epidemic.

By Kate Stanton
FDA proposes lifting ban on gay male blood donors
The Federal Drug Administration has taken the first steps to lifting a ban on gay male blood donors. Photo by Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- The Food and Drug Administration has drafted policy that would allow gay men to donate blood for the first time in three decades.

But the new guidelines, proposed Tuesday, would still block donations from men who have had sex with another man in the previous year.

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"Male donors previously deferred because of a history of sex with another man, even one time, since 1977, may be eligible to donate provided that they have not had sex with another man during the past 12 months and they meet all other donor eligibility criteria," the draft proposal states.

In 1985, the FDA ruled that men who had sex at least once with another man after 1977 were indefinitely prohibited from donating blood.

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According to the FDA, the regulations were instituted amid the HIV/AIDS epidemic and were intended to prevent HIV transmission from a particularly high-risk population.

Critics of the ban, including the American Red Cross and gay rights advocates, have called it unnecessary and discriminatory.

The FDA said the potential change in policy stemmed from the increased safety and sensitivity of HIV tests and procedures. The agency also cited successful one-year deferral policies in other countries, such as Australia, Brazil, Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom

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The Human Rights Council, which has long advocated for a lift on the ban, said the new guidelines were inadequate.

"While the new policy is 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," HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy said in a statement.

Stacey continued:

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This policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply. It simply cannot be justified in light of current scientific research and updated blood-screening technology. We are committed to working toward an eventual outcome that both minimizes risk to the blood supply and treats gay and bisexual men with the respect they deserve.

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