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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 25, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 52
FDA relaxes Gay blood donation ban
Half-way measure pleases no one
Section One
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FDA relaxes Gay blood donation ban
Half-way measure pleases no one

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced December 21 that it was relaxing its 32-year-old ban on blood donations from Gay and Bisexual men.

Finalizing a policy change it proposed in 2014, the FDA said that Gay and Bi men may now donate blood if they have not had sex with other men in the previous year.

In 1983, in the early stages of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, when the virus was little researched and ways of controlling infection had not yet been discovered, the FDA decided it was too risky to allow Gay and Bi blood donors.

LGBT rights advocates and many medical groups have been urging the FDA to lift the ban for years. They argue that the policy is discriminatory because it singles out Gay and Bi men and is unnecessary because blood donors can now be screened for HIV.

The change to a one-year exclusion did not satisfy LGBT activists.

'It perpetuates the stigma that HIV is a gay disease,' says Kelsey Louie, who heads Gay Men's Health Crisis, one of the oldest HIV/AIDS activist groups.

Congress's LGBT Equality Caucus also criticized the new policy.

'The FDA's new policy continues the government's troubling precedent of allowing stigma to trump science and public health when it comes to blood donations,' said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).

'It is ridiculous and counter to the public health that a married gay man in a monogamous relationship can't give blood, but a promiscuous straight man who has had hundreds of opposite-sex partners in the last year can. The FDA's own Blood DROPS survey has found that the prevalence of HIV in male blood donors who reported that they had sexual relations with men is just 0.25%, which is lower than the overall prevalence in the United States of 0.38%. There is no scientific reason to impose a celibacy requirement on gay men before they can donate blood. The FDA should implement a process that screens potential donors relying on a science-based risk assessment rather than outdated stereotypes.'

The LGBT Equality Caucus includes 76 members of Congress, including Suzan DelBene and Derek Kilmer of Washington state.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) was more complimentary toward the FDA decision but still insisted it was only a 'first step.'

'I am encouraged that the FDA swiftly finalized this guidance to move forward and revise the discriminatory lifetime ban on blood donations,' she said in a statement.

'However, this is just the first step toward ending an outdated policy that is medically and scientifically unwarranted. This revision doesn't go far enough - and I expect the FDA to maintain its commitment to work with stakeholders to develop better blood donor policies based on science. I will continue to push the Administration to move forward to achieve our ultimate goal of blood donation policies that are based on individual risk factors, that don't unfairly single out one group of individuals, and that allow all healthy Americans to donate.'

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FDA relaxes Gay blood donation ban
Half-way measure pleases no one

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