The FDA announced today that it plans to recommend shortening the ban period on blood donations by gay and bisexual men. The move would allow gay men to become blood donors if they haven't had sex with another man for over a year, reports CNBC.
BREAKING: FDA to recommend end of ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men; restrictions remain.— The Associated Press (@AP) December 23, 2014
"From indefinite deferral to one year since the last sexual contact."
The recommendation will modify a ban that was put in place in 1983 because of the HIV epidemic. Currently, gay and bisexual men aren't allowed to donate blood in the US if they have engaged in sexual acts with other men at any point since 1977.
"The FDA has carefully examined and considered the available scientific evidence relevant to its blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men, including the results of several recently completed scientific studies and recent epidemiologic data," the government agency said in a press release. "Following this review... the agency will take the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men from indefinite deferral to one year since the last sexual contact."
A change in the FDA's policy could increase the current blood supply by as much as 4 percent, reports The New York Times. The change will mirror the policies of countries like the UK, which implemented a 12-month donation restriction in 2011. But for many, the new policy doesn't go nearly far enough. For instance, men who are in committed relationships, and who undergo regular HIV testing still won't be able to donate blood.
"leaving behind the old view that every gay man is a potential infection source."
"We're leaving behind the old view that every gay man is a potential infection source," I. Glenn Cohen, a law professor at Harvard University, told the New York Times. But the policy is "still not rational enough."
The FDA says it will implement a "national blood surveillance program" that will help experts monitor the effects of this policy change once it becomes active. This probably won't happen until late 2015, however, because that the FDA only plans to issue a draft guidance of the donation proposal next year. Upon its release, the draft guidance will be made available for public comment.