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US lifts 30-year-old ban on blood donation by gay men but here's why the policy may still be biased

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 2:15 IST
The United States government on 21 December overturned a 30-year-ban on blood donations by gay men.
  • According to the new policy, gay men can now donate blood - 12 months after their last sexual contact.
  • The Food and Drug Administration said that the decision was based on latest research which claims an indefinite ban is not necessary to prevent transmission of HIV.
  • "Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the US population," Dr Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA's biologics division said in a statement.
  • Countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand already have 12-month deferral periods.

'The policy is still discriminatory'

  • However, gay rights advocates reportedly said the updated policy remains discriminatory.
  • "It is ridiculous that a married gay man in a monogamous relationship can't give blood, but a promiscuous straight man who has had hundreds of opposite sex partners in the last year can," said Jared Polis, a Democratic congressman and co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, a caucus of openly gay members of Congress.

A drawn out decision

  • The FDA said it has worked with other government agencies and considered input from outside advisory bodies, and has "carefully examined the most recent available scientific evidence to support the current policy revision."
  • During Australia's switch from an indefinite blood donor deferral policy on gay men, essentially a ban, to a 12-month deferral, studies evaluating more than 8 million units of donated blood were performed using a national blood surveillance system, the FDA said.
  • "These published studies document no change in risk to the blood supply with use of the 12-month deferral," the agency said. "Similar data are not available for shorter deferral intervals."

Barred from donating

  • Additionally, the agency said people with hemophilia and related blood clotting disorders will continue to be banned from donating blood due to potential harm they could suffer from large needles. Previously they were banned due to an increased risk of HIV transmission.
  • The agency said it has put in place a safety monitoring system for the blood supply which it expects to provide "critical information" to help inform future FDA blood donor policies.
  • The FDA said its policies have helped reduce HIV transmission rates from blood transfusions from 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 1.47 million.
  • The FDA first proposed the changes in May. It received some 700 public comments. About half recommended keeping the ban in place.
First published: 22 December 2015, 2:50 IST
 
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