The US Food and Drug Administration has announced plans to end a lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men that has been in place since 1983. The current ban covered all men who have had sex with men at any time since 1977, and was intended to prevent the spread of the HIV virus but was seen by gay-rights activists as discriminatory.
The new policy, revealed on 23 December, will allow gay and bisexual men who have abstained from sex for a year to donate blood. The move follows the recommendations of a US government advisory panel.
The United Kingdom lifted an analogous ban in 2011, also allowing donations by gay men who have abstained from sex for a year.
In a statement, Adaora Adimora, Chair of the HIV Medicines Association, supported the rule change, but said it fell short of some advocates’ hopes:
“[W]e are concerned that the new policy retains an unnecessary and unique exclusion of men who have sex with men from donating blood for one year. Requiring a one-year abstinence period for men who have sex with men, regardless of risk behavior is not grounded in science regarding transmission risks or supported by current diagnostics for detecting HIV infection and other blood-borne pathogens.”
In 2015, the FDA will issue the detailed draft policy, which will be open for public comment before being finalized.