13 developed countries have now lifted the ban on blood donations from sexually active homosexual men. Will the U.S. follow?
Should men who have sex with other men be allowed to donate blood?
They’re currently banned from doing so for life in the U.S., a policy the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented in 1983, after an estimated 10,000 people became infected with HIV through transfusions of HIV-tainted blood. But now, advocates argue that scientific advances render the risk obsolete and are demanding an end to what they see as an unnecessarily discriminatory policy.
Just weeks ago, the United Kingdom lifted its ban, joining 12 other developed countries that now allow such donations after deferral periods of six months to five years. Despite support from the Red Cross for ending the ban, the FDA rejected one such proposal last year.
Opponents of lifting the ban argue men who have sex with men still pose a heightened risk of contracting HIV and that even that small increased threat to the blood supply isn’t worth it. Patt talks with the president of AABB (formerly the American Assn. of Blood Banks) about the issue and what the time line could be for a shift in policy.
Dr. James AuBuchon, president, AABB (formerly the American Assn. of Blood Banks); chief executive, Puget Sound Blood Center; professor of laboratory medicine, University of Washington in Seattle