FDA recommends ending ban on gay men donating blood
The Food and Drug Administration announced that it is recommending an end to its prohibition on gay men donating blood.
On Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the agency has spent years in conjunction with other government agencies examining scientific evidence about the blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men. Based on several studies and evidence, the FDA will “take the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men” from an indefinite deferral to one year after the last sexual contact.
The one-year deferral is in line with the deferral period for other men and women at increased risk for HIV, such as those who have had a tattoo or an STD in the last 12 months, according to the statement.
According to the National Institute of Health, it usually takes three months after infection for HIV to be detected by a test; for some people, HIV cannot be detected for six months.
The change will not be immediate–the agency will draft the policy change in 2015, which will include a public comment period and recommendations from stakeholders.
FiveThirtyEight, a statistics blog, utilized data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. census and the American Red Cross to determine how the policy change may impact the blood supply. FiveThirtyEight estimates that there will be an increase of somewhere between 2 and 4 percent. The Williams Institute at UCLA Law School predicts based on that data that 1.8 million lives could potentially be saved by the change in policy.
The FDA has already begun collaborating with the NIH’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute to “implement a national blood surveillance system” to help monitor what effect the police change has and to ensure the safety of the blood supply.
CNN reports that in 2010, male-to-male sex accounted for at least 61 percent of all new HIV infections in the United States, and “an estimated 77 percent of diagnosed HIV infections among males were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact,” according to the FDA.