Ban on Gay Men Donating Blood Being Reviewed

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability continues with the second day of it’s two-day hearings on the quarter-century-old donor policy, which bars any man who has had sex even once with another man since 1977 from ever giving blood.

The outcome of the committee hearings will determine whether the ban on gay men donating blood will be lifted. The restrictions were began in the early days of the HIV- AIDS crisis as it became clear that gay men were at increased risk of getting and transmitting HIV.

The deferral of blood donation from men who had sex with another man (MSM) has existed in its current form since September 1985. Surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that MSM likely to donate have an HIV infection rate 15 times higher than the general population.

MSM also have an increased risk of having other infections that can be transmitted to others by blood transfusion. For example, infection with the Hepatitis B virus is about 5-6 times more common and Hepatitis C virus infections are about 2 times more common in MSM than in the general population.

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Today, the risk of getting HIV from a transfusion or a blood product has been nearly eliminated in the United States due to improved procedures which include donor screening for risk of infection and laboratory testing.

Advocacy groups, blood-collection organizations and some members of Congress are calling for the Food and Drug Administration to revise the lifetime ban, which has been reviewed twice in the past 10 years, but not changed. Lifting the ban would increase the number of potential blood donors in a time when frequent shortages exist.

Gay rights organizations say the regulation discriminates against gay and bisexual men. They point out that heterosexual men who have had sex with an HIV-positive partner or a prostitute are barred from donating blood for only 12 months after that contact.

The Red Cross and other blood-collection organizations are recommending a one-year ”deferral,” or waiting period, on donations after male-to-male sex.

If you are interested you can watch the Live Web-based Videocast of the June 10th and 11th 2010 ACBSA Meeting: click here

Sources
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Food and Drug Administration

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