FDA to Let Gay Men Donate Blood, If They Aren’t Sexually Active

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The FDA announced today that it intends to scrap the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, and replace it with a ban on donations from men who have had sex with other men within the past year. The current policy was implemented in 1983, in the early days of the AIDS crisis, and many say it’s discriminatory and illogical, including the American Medical Association. Tests to detect HIV have improved drastically over the decades, and screenings used on all blood donations can detect the virus 9 to 12 days after infection. That’s why Tim Murphy argued against the one-year ban on homosexual activity in New York recently, saying it perpetuates the “ugly belief that gay men are in some sense contaminated.”

There is no exact date for when the ban will be lifted. The FDA intends to draft the new guidelines in early 2015, then finalize them after taking comments from the public. Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told reporters, “At this time, the scientific evidence is not compelling that we can change to anything less than a one-year deferral and still maintain the current level of safety of the blood supply.”

Australia, Japan, and the U.K. already require gay men to be abstinent for one year prior to their donation. In the U.S., people of any sexual orientation are barred from giving blood for one year after having intercourse with a sex worker, an IV drug user, or someone who is HIV-positive.