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Advisory Group Supports Softening the Blood Donation Ban on Gay Men

Update Date: Nov 14, 2014 12:24 PM EST

For the first time in the United States, a federal group has recommended changing the ban on blood donations for gay men from full to partial. According to the U.S. Health and Human Services' Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability, gay men should be allowed to donate blood if they have abstained from sex for at least a year.

The advisory group, which consists of doctors and advocates for blood donation, voted 16-2 in favor of adopting a partial ban on gay and bisexual men.

"The system, in my mind, has been very successful, in part, I believe, because the public has trust in the system and the decisions we make," said Jay Menitove, chairman of the advisory group, reported by Bloomberg Businessweek. "To maintain that trust and compliance on the part of the public, it is time to modernize."

Currently, the 31-year-old ban states that men who have sex with other men are not allowed to donate blood at all. The ban on gay and bisexual men started out of fear that the blood might be infected with HIV/AIDS. Over the years, several groups, such as the American Red Cross, have spoken up in opposition of the ban, stating that it is stopping people from making much-needed donations. Despite the support to soften the ban, some groups believe that more should be done to de-stigmatize the gay and bisexual communities.

"This recommendation -- although nominally better than the existing policy -- falls far short because it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men, preventing them from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation," Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Government Affairs Director David Stacy said reported by the Huffington Post.

The recommendation will be looked over by a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory group on Dec. 2.

"The meeting provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA's deliberations," Jennifer Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the agency, said. "The FDA's primary concern as we continue to review our blood donation policies will be assuring the continued safety of blood and blood products for the patients who receive these products."

Although the FDA does not always listen to its advisory panel, the panel's decision does have a strong impact on the agency.

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