Gay Men Not Granted Right to Donate Blood

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Gay men have not been granted the right to donate blood.

This past Thursday and Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability reviewed 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 Advisory Committee has decided to continue with the restrictions which were begun 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.

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Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., gave his testimony to the blood advisory committee, calling the policy discriminatory. Gay activist groups and the American Red Cross advised lifting the ban, perhaps changing to a one-year ”deferral,” or waiting period, on donations after male-to-male sex.

The Advisory Committee at the end of the two-day meeting felt the science did not support lifting the ban. 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.

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.

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

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