FDA changes blood donation ban

Timothy Kincaid

December 22nd, 2015

givebloodSince 1983 the Food and Drug Administration has forbidden any man who had ever had sex with another man – even once – since 1977 from donating blood, out of fear of transmitting the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. And while that made sense in 1983, for many years that has been a policy based on fear and stereotype instead of science.

All blood donated is tested for bloodborne pathogens, including HIV. And current tests allow detection of an HIV infection as recently as nine days after exposure.

Considering that men who have sex with men continue to account for over half of all new HIV infections, it does not seem unreasonable for there to be some waiting period after a sexual encounter for a gay man to donate blood in many instances, just to be certain that he hasn’t been infected too recently to have tests identify the virus.

But forty-seven years is an excessive amount of time to wait.

Several other nations – including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, and Japan – have all revised their restrictions to a much smaller abstinence window, most selecting one year. Now the United States has followed suit. (Washington Post)

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday lifted a decades-old, lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have had sex with other men, replacing it with a 12-month “deferral” period that prohibits such donors from giving blood for a year after their last same-sex contact.

The agency said its updated policy reflects “the most current scientific evidence” and mirrors the approach taken in other countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom. “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 said in a statement.

I don’t agree that this reflects “the most current scientific evidence”. It seems to me that a much shorter window – maybe a few weeks or a month – could be utilized with the same level of protection. It also seems to me that a person on PrEP would present no risk to the blood supply irrespective of their most recent sexual experience. As would those in monogamous relationships in which neither party is HIV+.

But this is a step in the right direction. And the FDA has said that it is a “first step” and is likely to evolve. Let’s hope the next step reflects individual risk assessment. Let’s also hope that it comes a bit sooner than 23 years.

Paul Douglas

December 22nd, 2015

I had donated 5 gallons of blood to the Red Cross by the time the 80’s came along and they forbade us to do so anymore.
That must be 30 years ago. Where does the time fly?


December 23rd, 2015

So, being in a 10+ year monogamous relationship STILL means I cannot donate without committing perjury… DUMB DUMB DUMB

Straight men and women can donate blood on their way home from a swingers gathering.


December 23rd, 2015

Tim, this is a step, but it is the tiniest step possible. More like a “slide your foot forward one inch.” I’m not sure this is anything to celebrate, because it still stigmatizes same-sex relationships. I acknowledge the logic of being be slightly stricter on gay men, but they wouldn’t do this to another group. Straight black women appear to be the next highest at-risk demographic. How would the public react if they said “no blood from black women who have had sex in the last year”? Ultimately, it is still a functional ban on gay men donating blood, and I am not sure that is really worth celebrating.


December 23rd, 2015

Oh, Here’s my source:

I must acknowledge that every MSM demographic has much higher rates than straight black women, so that doesn’t exactly feed my narrative. However, it still seems more like a “gays are icky” rule than a reasonable approach.

Timothy Kincaid

December 23rd, 2015


At one point Haitians were not allowed to donate blood. And yes, it did cause protests and was reversed.


December 23rd, 2015

Timothy and Nathaniel – People married to people from some African nations also could not (and still cannot sometimes) give blood… but the CDC is allowing blood collection sites with particular HIV testing options to opt out of that.


December 23rd, 2015

It’s a small, very, very small, step in the right direction, but it has the same results as the previous lifetime ban. It still treats gay men, even if they only have sex with one partner, as being different than other groups. How many gay men haven’t had sex within the last year? They already check every blood sample for HIV so it’s not like this ban is necessary. HIV tests will correctly diagnosis someone as positive 97% of the time at 6 weeks. This year ban doesn’t make sense.

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