AMA Votes To Oppose 'Discriminatory' FDA Ban On Gay Men Donating Blood

By iScienceTimes Staff on June 21, 2013 4:55 PM EDT

blood
Gay men should be allowed to donate blood, the AMA voted this week. An FDA lifetime ban prevents any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Gay men should be able to donate blood, the American Medical Association voted this week, denouncing the Food and Drug Administration's ban as "not based on sound science."

The FDA ban was instituted in 1983 in response to the AIDS outbreak. The ban states that any man who has sex with another man since 1977 cannot give blood.

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"The existing policy is archaic and discriminatory because it falsely assumes that all gay men are HIV-positive regardless of their sexual behavior," said Martin Algaze, spokesman for Gay Men's Health Crisis. "At the same time, it allows heterosexuals to donate blood even if they have participated in risky sexual or drug-use behavior."

The AMA says that the 30-year ban is outdated, and they recommend that the FDA amend its policy to evaluate gay men on a case by case basis, rather than simply considering all gay men too high-risk to donate blood.

"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science," AMA board member Dr. William Kobler said in a statement. "This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone."

In 1983, when the ban on gays donating blood was instituted, it wasn't easy to test blood for HIV. As it stands now, HIV and AIDS testing is standard practice when drawing blood for donations.

According to the FDA's website, contracting HIV from donated blood is exceedingly rare:

HIV tests currently in use are highly accurate, but still cannot detect HIV 100% of the time. It is estimated that the HIV risk from a unit of blood has been reduced to about 1 per 2 million in the USA, almost exclusively from so called "window period" donations. The "window period" exists very early after infection, where even current HIV testing methods cannot detect all infections.

America's Blood Centers, which provides almost half of America's blood supply, says one option is for the FDA to look at other countries' polices.

"A year [of abstinence] has been adopted in the United Kingdom and Australia," said Louis Katz, vice president for America's Blood Centers. While Katz admitted this was just a first step, he said, "it would be movement from where we've been since the early 80s."

Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross, said that one reason the lifetime ban on gays donating blood makes little sense is because it treats risky behavior unevenly.

"A female who has had sex with someone known to have HIV has a 12-month deferral [from donating blood]" Benjamin said, "where a man who had sex with a man gets a lifetime deferral." Benjamin added, "it's not fair."  

2010 UCLA study estimated that if the gay ban were lifted, the donated blood supply in America would increase by 219,000 pints. 

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