FDA to reconsider blood donation ban

Timothy Kincaid

March 13th, 2010

From the LA Times:

Federal health officials announced Friday that they would reexamine a 27-year-old set of restrictions on blood donations by gay men.

The FDA “has been actively engaged in reexamining the issue of blood donor deferral for men who have had sex with other men, taking into account the current body of scientific information, and we are considering the possibility of pursuing alternative strategies that maintain blood safety,” the agency said in a statement.

The issue will be examined by the Department of Health and Human Services’ blood safety committee in June, according to the statement.


March 13th, 2010

Here’s a link to the full story. The article said that some opposition to revising the donation rules is coming from hemophiliac patient groups, which was something I hadn’t been aware of before.

A look at the comments reveals just how much support for the ban is based on ignorance and groundless fears. It’s going to take a lot of patience and careful explaining to get the public comfortable with this change.


March 13th, 2010

The FDA is just going to sit on it like they do just about everything in need of change. It’s going to take a lot more sustained pressure to change their tune.

And yes, most of the opposition comes from hemophiliacs and their families, and that includes within the FDA. Nevermind that the blood products they use are created from plasma donations that are paid for, not voluntary red blood cell or platelet donations.

David C.

March 13th, 2010

…some opposition to revising the donation rules is coming from hemophiliac patient groups….

I suppose this is based on the fact that hemophiliacs were some of the first people to became infected with HIV not through sexual contact but from contaminated blood transfusions near the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Their paranoia might be assuaged through education but it will take time and may never fully be supported by such groups. Everybody concerned needs to become better informed.


March 14th, 2010

I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, I think it’s ridiculous to single out every man who has had MM sex since the 70’s — that’s just absurd — screenings today are far far better than that. That said, it’s unreasonable to try to convert donating blood into some kind of civil right — we need to be mindful of balancing perceived slights against the need not to be “pretty sure”, but to be absolutely certain – 99.9999% – that the blood products aren’t carrying something that can harm / kill the recipient. 99.99% seems pretty good, but if you’re 1 in 10,000 people who loses someone because their cancer surgery resulted in hepatitis complications, well, 1 in 10,000 suddenly is a bit high. We need to be more like 99.9999% sure, and that’s just not easy (and often results in sweeping rules that seems arbitrary and stupid).

I’m thinking perhaps ANYONE who has had risky activities within 90 days(new partner of either gender, tattoos, drug use, invasive medical procedures) might be excluded (although there goes your college blood drives). 90 days should give the body enough time to produce the antibodies to allow the screeners to protect the blood supply. In this case we’re talking HIV, HCV, STDs, etc.

As always the questionnaire should be behaviors-based, and respondants need to feel totally secure in answering questions honestly and completely — something (in my experience) the well trained nurses at most blood drives have accomplished with a fair amount of grace — although I’m sure this varies by region.

By the way, I know someone personally who acquired HCV from tranfusions in the 80’s before it was well-understood. It’s not just paranoia, and it’s not just HIV that should concern us. Questions need to be tied to real risk, not perceived risk.


March 14th, 2010

werdna: You’re correct about patient and careful explanations being needed. This is a classic case where framing is important: the FDA needs to frame it as “we’re trying to bring the way we treat MSM in line with the way we treat other potentially risky groups.”


March 14th, 2010

There are deferrals for tattoos, piercings, etc. already and unlike the MSM deferral they’re quite reasonable and not indefinite. So yes, the change in policy being debated would just bring it in line with other risky behaviors.


March 15th, 2010

PLZ DO reexamine this… this is simply based of ignorance and paranoia as has been well presented by earlier posters. This policy is in need of change to reflect the real risk presented by MSM and other risky behaviors. As it is, it seems that MSM is the most risky behavior by a long shot.

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