Ban on gay blood donors upheld

Sat. June 12, 2010 12:00 AM by News Staff

Washington, D.C. - A federal health advisory panel has voted to continue banning gay men from donating blood.

The ban was instituted in 1983, to prevent HIV-AIDS from entering the blood donation supply. It officially prohibits any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from donating.

Straight people are prohibited from donating if they've had sex with someone with HIV-AIDS within the past year.

After a two-day meeting, the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability voted 9-6 to keep the gay blood ban in place.

Senators including John Kerry (D-Mass.) had asked the panel to end the discriminatory practice.

"This lingering policy is responsible for turning away thousands of healthy donors from blood clinics across the country, not because they have engaged in highly risky behavior, but because they are gay," Kerry testified. "This is blood that could save lives."

Blood donation groups like Blood Centers of the Pacific in the San Francisco Bay Area say the ban stops them from collecting thousands of pints of much-needed blood every year. Some colleges refuse to let blood donation groups on campus, because of the federal policy of discriminating against gays.

"I'm disappointed because I'm afraid that student groups and other groups are going to blame the blood banks," Dr. Kim Anh Nguyen told the San Jose Mercury News. "Blood centers hope that groups that are disappointed and angered by this don't take it out on patients and continue to support blood donations."

The panel did advocate further study to figure out if there could be a more nuanced screening system, perhaps based on longer questionnaires.