The FDA Has Lifted Its 32-Year Ban On Blood Donations From Gay Men, But…

The FDA announced today that it will be lifting a 32-year ban on blood donations from gay men. The ban was originally put in place to screen out donors who were likely to be HIV-positive – and CDC data shows that about 20 percent of men who have sex with men (MSM) have HIV, and about half of them don’t know that they’ve contracted it.

In lifting the ban, though, the FDA is requiring a 12-month abstinence period for MSM. Deputy Director of the FDA’s biologics division, Dr. Peter Marks, said that “the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the U.S. population.” The American Association of Blood Banks, the American Red Cross, and America’s Blood Centers have all been advocating for lifting the ban in preference of an abstinence period since at least 2006, and in the AABB’s case, it’s been since 1997.

Critics of the ban, and of the “deferral window,” say that both are based on homophobia – blood donations are tested for HIV to rule out donors who have the disease. The city councils of both New York and Washington D.C. have been calling for the ban to be lifted since 2010. Ultimately, the 12-month window does increase the number of potential blood donors – but, as is often the case for the LGBT community, there are strings attached and hurdles to jump.

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