For the first time ever, a U.S. Health and Human Services advisory panel recommended that the FDA significantly alter its full-scale ban on gay men donating blood, a discriminatory policy implemented way back in 1983. Currently, any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 is not allowed to donate blood, despite the fact that we have increased technological capabilities for detecting communicable diseases in blood samples. The FDA argues the ban is crucial because “gay and bisexual men are at an increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and other infections that can be transmitted via blood transfusion.”
On Thursday, the federal advisory panel recommended that the FDA modify the ban to include only men who have had sex with other men in the last year. This means that gay men who have been abstinent for a year or longer would be allowed to donate blood. It’s not exactly the end of a 20-plus-year ban that some activists had hoped for, but it’s a step toward that goal.
Though HIV blood tests are not 100 percent accurate, ending the ban would greatly increase the amount of blood available for sick Americans.
“A recent study by the American Red Cross estimates that lifting the blood donation ban could be used to help save the lives of more than 1.8 million people,” one activist told the L.A. Times.