FDA to Gay Men: No More Ban, Kinda, Not Really

The FDA has issued a major change to the decades old rule of not allowing gay men to donate blood, but many question if this is still not good enough. They have stated blood donations will be allowed from gay or bisexual men who claim they have not had sex with another man in 12 months.

Proponents of lifting the ban say this will mean that there will be an additional 2-4% of blood now being added to the nation’s blood supply from potentially over two million men. But with the careful blood screenings being done today, is the one year ban really necessary? And what about the risky behaviors of heterosexual blood donors? They must not be completely honest about their sexual practices since their blood is screened, too.

The agency said its updated policy reflects “the most current scientific evidence” and mirrors the approach taken in other countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom. “We have taken great care to ensure this policy revision is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply,” FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff said in a statement.

But some gay rights advocates were less than pleased with the 12-month deferral policy, which requires men who have sex with other men to remain abstinent for a year before giving blood. The National Gay Blood Drive, a group that has pushed for rolling back the decades-old ban, said that while it supports FDA’s updated approach, “the revised policy is still discriminatory.”

“While many gay and bisexual men will be eligible to donate their blood and help save lives under this 12-month deferral, countless more will continue to be banned solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and without medical or scientific reasoning,” the group said in a statement. The organization’s founder and director, Ryan James Yezak, said FDA should move toward an approach based on assessing each potential donor’s risk on the basis of individual behaviors.