HHS Considers Revisiting Gay-Male Ban On Blood Donation

The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) is considering new criteria for blood donation for gay men, reports The Hill.

Currently, men who have had sex with other men (MSM) since 1977 cannot donate blood due to “higher levels of certain transfusion-transmissible infections” among that population, the notice explains. Members of Congress’s interest and increased accuracy among donor testing have made the department reconsider the ban.

“[T]he increased effectiveness of donor testing for [Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)], [Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)], syphilis and other infectious agents has greatly enhanced blood safety,” the department states in the notice, which will be published in the Federal Register Tuesday.

“As a result, questions have been raised about the need to continue an indefinite deferral of all MSM and whether there could be blood donation by MSM who may not be at increased risk.”

Right now, HHS is only seeking comments for a new pilot program—which would reflect the vast amount of new information about the disease science has gained since the original criteria were enacted, as well as more accurate and faster testing technology.  Those who met certain standards—say, a single same-sex encounter a given number of years ago—would theoretically be allowed to donate, with additional precautions in place.

Photo: HHS