American Medical Association Votes To Reject Federal Ban On Gay Men Donating Blood

US_Navy_080814-N-0486G-006_Bags_and_vials_of_blood_await_processing_during_the_Armed_Services_Blood_Program_(ASBP)_Blood_drive_at_Naval_Station_MayportThe American Medical Association voted Tuesday to oppose the Food and Drug Administration’s 30-year ban on gay men donating blood.

“The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science,” AMA board member Dr. William Kobler said in a statement. “This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.”

The FDA initiated the ban in 1983 in response to the AIDS epidemic when little was known about the disease and gay men were the primary victims. Meanwhile, 30 years later and HIV/AIDS testing is standard practice in blood donations to minimize risk and, according to the FDA, the risk of getting HIV from a blood transfusion has been reduced to about one per two million units of blood..

Still the FDA maintains that gay men “are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.”

The AMA recommends that the FDA change its policy so that gay men are evaluated on an individual basis rather than lumped together in a high-risk category, in addition to crafting a policy that more accurately represents scientific research.

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  • Cam

    Makes sense, a gay guy in a long term monogamous relationship is a much lower risk for blood donations than say a single straight woman who is on the pill so doesn’t use condoms and has slept with different people over the last 6 months. Or a straight guy who is single and is out every weekend trying to get laid.

  • Polaro

    They are supposed to test the blood for all these diseases. So are they saying they really aren’t testing the blood? Because if they are screening all the blood then there is no reason to ban gay men. That said I do enjoy rubbing their noses in it when they ask me to donate blood at work.

  • Cee

    @Polaro: If they are testing the blood I don’t see what the problem would be with gay men donating. I’m sure people with rare blood types have died because the blood they needed was not available. The FDA would rather let them die than to receive the blood from a gay man I guess.

  • Kieru

    @Polaro: When HIV/AIDS was first gaining notice testing procedures for it were not as precise as they are today. That lack of proper testing (and of course not really knowing what HIV was) resulted in thousands of potentially avoidable infections.

    AT THE TIME IT WAS IMPLEMENTED – the ban made practical sense. That is no longer the case but as I’m sure we’re all aware Government is slow to affect change when that change does not have a financial incentive attached to it.

    At this point any proponent for keeping the ban in place is doing so out of either sheer fear, or homophobia as our methods of screening blood donations has become incredibly more efficient and reliable.

  • 2eo

    Hopefully with the progression of synthetic blood we are nearing a day when it will be plentiful.

    Until then the disgraceful treatment of us in spite of scientific progress is a testament to the idiots who don’t understand the simple mechanics of the world around us.

  • hyhybt

    Between the existence of a window, however much smaller than it used to be, between infection and turning positive, and because every test ever designed will occasionally show a false negative, it makes sense to take risk into account. The trouble is their method.

    On the other hand, so long as there are enough willing donors eligible under the current rules that *real* shortages (not just “we don’t have as much in stock as we like to keep,” but “these people needed blood and there was none to be had” shortages) are rare, there’s no incentive to lift the ban. Likewise with other stuff, like the prohibition on people who spent significant amounts of time in Britain just in case they somehow managed to catch Mad Cow, even though the disease is rare in actual British humans.)

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