FDA to recommend end of ban on blood from gay men

Tue. December 23, 2014 1:14 PM by GoPride.com News Staff

Washington, DC - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will propose ending its ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg announced in a statement Tuesday.

The agency is suggesting changing its rules so that men who have sex with men would have to wait one year "since the last sexual contact" to donate blood.

"This recommended change is consistent with the recommendation of an independent expert advisory panel the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability, and will better align the deferral period with that of other men and women at increased risk for HIV infection," said Hamburg.

The FDA banned gay men from donating blood since 1977 due to the high risk of transmitting HIV, but advocates for changing the policy argue it is no longer scientifically justified with current blood screening technology.

"Today's official policy change by the FDA on blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM) from a lifetime ban to one-year deferral is disappointing," U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) told ChicagoPride.com. "A time-based deferral focusing solely on men who have sex with men is still discriminatory and fails to exclude donors based on actual risk factors. However, as the leader of the bipartisan, bicameral effort to reverse the FDA's discriminatory policy, I remain encouraged by this ongoing conversation to change the outdated policy. I will continue to fight for a deferral policy based on behavioral risks, commensurate with the rest of the population and based on sound science, bringing equality for the LGBT community while still protecting the U.S. blood supply."

In September, Rep. Quigley and over 60 Democratic politicians, lead by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), signed a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell asking for the policy to be reevaluated to reflect modern screening technology.

The American Red Cross has projected that more than 1.8 million of lives could be saved by the additional blood donations.

The FDA intends to issue a draft guidance recommending the proposed change in policy in 2015. There will also be a period of public comment.