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23 Dec, 2014 21:40

FDA ready to relax ban on gay blood donors

FDA ready to relax ban on gay blood donors

US health officials are ready to allow gay men and bisexuals to donate blood one year after their last sexual contact. This would mark a change to the lifetime ban that has been in place since 1983, and could increase annual blood supply by four percent.

The Food and Drug Administration announced the proposal on Tuesday.

“The agency will take the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men from indefinite deferral to one year since the last sexual contact,"
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement.

The ban was introduced when the AIDS epidemic was at its peak. Researchers did not know specific details of how the virus was spread, so the ban was intended to protect people from the disease.

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“This is a major victory for gay civil rights,”
I. Glenn Cohen, a law professor at Harvard University, said. “We’re leaving behind the old view that every gay man is a potential infection source."

The deputy director for the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Peter Marks, said the agency “will continue to reconsider” its policies concerning a possible total removal of the ban.

However, gay rights activists are not quite satisfied with the proposition. A representative from Gay Men's Health Crisis said that requiring celibacy for a year is a de facto lifetime ban.

The US is not the first country to reconsider a lifetime ban for homosexual blood donation; Great Britain, Japan, and Australia have abolished such bans.

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The Williams Institute at the University of California calculated that the potential increase in blood donors could increase the bloody supply by four percent, The New York Times reported.

"The FDA has already taken steps to implement a national blood surveillance system that will help the agency monitor the effect of a policy change and further help to ensure the continued safety of the blood supply," Hamburg said.

The agency will finalize its proposition at the beginning of next year, after analyzing feedback from the public.

The Food and Drug Administration is a federal agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services. It is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, blood transfusions, medical devices, cosmetics, pharmaceutical drugs, and other products.