Washington Post (04.17.12) - Wednesday, April 18, 2012
The American Red Cross (ARC) and other blood organizations are
calling for a change in the Food and Drug Administration
policy that excludes men from donating blood if they have had
sexual contact with another man even once since 1977. Instead,
they prefer a one-year waiting period. A similar change was
made last year in England, Scotland, and Wales.
ARC Chief Medical Officer Richard Benjamin said HIV was a much
bigger threat to the US blood supply decades ago. The nucleic
acid test, introduced in 1999, picks up HIV infections that
occurred as recently as 12 days before the test, according to
Some AIDS activists consider it unfair to have a lifetime
deferral for men who have sex with men (MSM) and claim
monogamy, but not for heterosexual men who say they have had
sex with a prostitute. FDA says the goal is to protect the
public, and it is basing its policy on science, not "any
judgment concerning the donor's sexual orientation."
FDA may reevaluate the policy, and it agrees that current HIV
tests miss fewer than one in a million HIV-infected donors.
Risks still exist, though only four known HIV transmissions
through blood transfusions have occurred since 1999, Benjamin
said. According to FDA, HIV prevalence is 60 times higher
among MSM than in the general public.
Although certain activists say the lifetime ban "feels like
discrimination," FDA points out other groups with a lifetime
deferral from donating blood include anyone who has received
money, drugs or other payment for sex since 1977; and those
who have injected drugs for a non-medical reason.
FDA's policy was most recently reviewed and upheld by a Health
and Human Services advisory committee in 2010.