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AMA Supports Lifting the Ban on Gay Men from Donating Blood

Update Date: Jun 21, 2013 10:22 AM EDT

In 1983, after the new virus, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) was circulating and killing so many people within the past few years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to plan a ban on gay men from donating blood. During the times, not much was known about HIV except the fact that researchers believed that HIV was most prevalent among drug users and gay men. Therefore, the FDA believed that the ban would prevent HIV from contaminating the blood bank. Now, after decades of studying this incurable infection, researchers know that HIV can afflict any one. The American Medical Association (AMA) announced that it voted to end the ban, which prohibited gay men from donating blood.

"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science," an AMA board member, Dr. William Kobler said in a statement according to TIME. "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."

The FDA's ban had continued to exist for all these years due to statistics that calculated HIV incidence rate over time. The FDA stated in 2010 that 61 percent of all the new HIV infected cases within this country could be tied to men who sleep with other men, while 77 percent of already diagnosed cases of HIV was tied to sexual contact between men. Despite these estimated numbers, other studies have found that this discriminatory ban prevents the blood bank from stocking up on healthy blood.

In 2010, the Williams Institute at UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) conducted a study that discovered that if the ban was lifted on gay men, blood banks could potentially add an extra 219,000 pints of healthy blood. The researchers of this study also estimated that if gay men who abstained from sex for one year were allowed to donate blood, there would be an extra 89,716 pints of blood available for people who desperately need it. In certain countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, gay men are allowed to donate blood if they have abstained from sex for a period of time.

Since there is a risk of getting HIV from donated blood in general, the AMA stressed that gay men who want to donate should get tested for HIV. If the ban were to be lifted, testing for HIV and ensuring that the blood is not tainted would be vital.  

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