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FDA Ends Ban On Blood Donations From Gay And Bisexual Men

Update Date: Dec 23, 2015 01:39 AM EST
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Finally, the Food and Drug Administration on Monday revoked the United States' 32-year-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. However, some significant restrictions will remain in place.

While gay and bisexual men can donate blood, men who have undergone sexual contact with another man within a year are still not permitted to donate, reported The New York Times.

This policy is in line with other laws in nations such as Australia and Britain while similar restrictions can be applied to potential donors who are exposed to greater risks for HIV, such as "recent transfusion recipients", the FDA said.

"The FDA's responsibility is to maintain a high level of blood product safety for people whose lives depend on it," FDA acting commissioner Stephen Ostroff said, according to USA Today. "We have taken great care to ensure this policy revision is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply."

The FDA had put the ban into effect in 1983 in order to "protect blood transfusion recipients from getting infected with HIV". According to the FDA, it has helped to bring down the risk of HIV through blood transfusion, "from 1 in 2,500 to about a 1 in 1.47 million".

The ban cannot be justified, say medical groups and gay activists. They point out that modern testing methods permit blood donors to be screened for HIV.

However, the critics counter that blood tests can remain "negative" even for nine days after a person gets infected with HIV. It would permit people to "slip through the screening process".

Activists hail the decision, but some ask that HIV risks need to be assessed from sexual behavior in a "more individual manner", so that questions can be asked about anal and oral sex, rather than concluding that all sexual contact is risky, according to National Gay Blood Drive spokesman Jay Franzone.

"The revised policy is still discriminatory," the group said, according to The Washington Post. "While many gay and bisexual men will be eligible to donate their blood and help save lives under this 12-month deferral, countless more will continue to be banned solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and without medical or scientific reasoning."

The ban on donations by the FDA still remain in place for patients of hemophilia and similar blood clotting disorders, due to the fear of large needles. The earlier ban was due to the higher risk of HIV transmission. Moreover, people who have exchanged sex for drugs or money or injected illegal drugs are still under the ban.

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