FDA to Lift Lifetime Blood Donation Ban for Men Who Have Had Sex with Other Men

By Briana Vannozzi

The new policy will effectively lift the ban that prohibits men who have had sex with another man, even just once, from ever donating blood. Instead it calls for a one-year moratorium — barring donations only from men who have had sex with another man within the prior year.

“It’s still stigmatizing a really specific population for no good reason,” said Garden State Equality Executive Director Andrea Bowen.

She explains the new rule still cuts out a majority of that population. Donated blood, she adds, gets tested.

“It’s a low risk time to change the policy. I just don’t understand why they took what is to me a really embarrassing half measure,” Bowen said.

The Food and Drug Administration has been enforcing the ban since 1977, just before the AIDS epidemic, and a time when little was known about the virus, except that the gay population was most at risk.

“I don’t understand and I think the rest of the LGBT community is behind me in this in wondering why still any sort of, any sort of limitation,” Bowen said.

The decision comes after decades of criticism from medical and gay rights advocates. They said fear was the basis for the ban, not science. In New Jersey, approximately 38,000 people are living with the AIDS virus.

“This very situation is a good example of why Garden State Equality and a lot of other LGBT organizations are working really hard to get involved in health advocacy to make sure that the LGBT perspective is represented as possible so that, you know, stigmatizing health regulations like this don’t happen,” said Bowen.

The American Red Cross issued a joint statement with several blood donation organizations saying, the FDA’s recommended change “is consistent with the position of our organization that the current lifetime deferral is unwarranted.” And added, “all potential blood donors should be treated with fairness, equality and respect, and that accurate donor histories and scientifically supported donor deferral criteria are critical to the continued safety of blood transfusion.”

Tests can detect HIV once its been in the bloodstream for about 10 days. The FDA will recommend the change in guidelines early next year and will hold public hearings before finalizing the plans.