U.S. FDA eases 31-year ban on blood donations from gay men

(Reuters) – U.S. health regulators will recommend that gay men be allowed to donate blood one year after their last sexual contact, easing a ban that has been in place since 1983.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that scientific evidence shows the move will not create risks for the nation’s blood supply. It stopped short of removing the ban altogether, which some medical groups and advocates had recommended, saying it was not supported by science.

The policy change is expected to boost the supply of donated blood by hundreds of thousands of pints per year.

Blood donations from gay men have been barred since the discovery that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was being transmitted through transfusions.

“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,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement.

The FDA said the move aligns the policy for gay men with that for other men and women who are at increased risk for HIV infection.

John Peller, President and Chief Executive Officer of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, said that the new policy still holds heterosexual individuals and gay men to different standards.

“We think that it’s a step in the right direction but it certainly doesn’t go far enough,” Peller said. “If the goal is to protect the blood supply while also increasing the pool of eligible donors we think that the FDA could go further and we encourage them to continue to review their policy.”

Some infectious disease experts agreed that the one-year delay instituted under the relaxed standards was still overly stringent given the scientific evidence.

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