US Ends Ban on Gay Blood Donors but Keeps Discriminating

"In practice", Louie said, "the new policy is still a continuation of the lifetime ban and ignores the modern science of HIV-testing technology while perpetuating the stereotype that all gay and bisexual men are inherently risky".

Men who have had sex with a man in the previous year are still prohibited from giving blood, in line with policies in countries including Australia, Japan and the U.K. Previously a lifetime ban had been in place.

A study published in 2010 by the Williams Institute from the University of California at Los Angeles calculated that if all gay men could donate blood, the annual supply of donated blood would be increased by 2 to 4 percent, which means about 615,000 pints per year.

For its part, the FDA cited the fact that several other countries - including the United Kingdom and Australia - have a 12-month wait period for gay blood donors.

The ban remains in place for commercial sex workers and people who use injectiondrugs, because "insufficient data are available to support a change to the existing deferral recommendations at this time", the FDA said in a statement.

These results, collected through the national blood surveillance system, were used to inform both the New Zealand and American law change. And, according to the FDA, studies found no change in risk to the blood supply.

On the current blood donor questionnaire, men are asked if they have ever had sex with another man since 1977 - the start of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. Potential donors who answer positively are barred from donating blood.

"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, M.D. said.

"Moving forward, the FDA will continue to reevaluate its blood donor deferral policies as new scientific information becomes available", the organization said.

The new policy has no effect on gay or bisexual American women, who have always been allowed to give blood in the same manner as heterosexuals.

As well as the lifetime ban for homosexual and bisexual men donating blood, the FDA also made recommendations regarding "donor educational materials, donor history questionnaires and accompanying materials, as well as donor requalification and product management procedures", the release said.

"Although some may argue that a 12-month ban is better than a grossly outdated lifetime ban, the updated policy is still discriminatory and not rooted in the reality of HIV testing today, said Dan Bruner, Whitman-Walker Health Senior Director of Policy".

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