Source: New York Times
The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that it would scrap a decades-old lifetime prohibition on blood donation by gay and bisexual men, a major stride toward ending what many had seen as a national policy of discrimination.
The F.D.A. enacted the ban in 1983, early in the AIDS epidemic. At the time, little was known about the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes the disease, and there was no quick test to determine whether somebody had it. But science — and the understanding of H.I.V. in particular — has advanced in the intervening decades. On Tuesday the F.D.A. acknowledged as much, lifting the lifetime ban but keeping in place a block on donations by men who have had sex with other men in the last 12 months…
(S)ome advocacy groups attacked the change as too incremental. Leaving in place a 12-month ban essentially blocks any gay or bisexual man who is sexually active from donating, erasing about half the population of potential donors and perpetuating what rights groups say is tougher treatment for gay and bisexual men.
G MHC, the advocacy group formerly known as Gay Men’s Health Crisis, called the new policy “offensive and harmful.” AIDS United, a Washington-based lobbying group, said that it was a “step forward,” but that it “continues to perpetuate discrimination against gay and bisexual men.”
In a statement, the FDA says it intends to issue a draft guidance this year that will also include an opportunity for public comment:
“Over the past several years, in collaboration with other government agencies, the FDA has carefully examined and considered the available scientific evidence relevant to its blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men, including the results of several recently completed scientific studies and recent epidemiologic data.
“Following this review, and taking into account the recommendations of advisory committees to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FDA, the agency will take the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men from indefinite deferral to one year since the last sexual contact.
“This recommended change is consistent with the recommendation of an independent expert advisory panel the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability, and will better align the deferral period with that of other men and women at increased risk for HIV infection. Additionally…the FDA has already taken steps to implement a national blood surveillance system that will help the agency monitor the effect of a policy change and further help to ensure the continued safety of the blood supply.”