Monday, October 10, 2011

Pro/Con: Two views of U.S. prohibiting gay men's blood donation

via The Los Angeles Times, by Jessica Pauline Ogilvie

Donor bloodLast month, the United Kingdom lifted its long-standing ban on accepting blood donations from gay men. Instead, health officials there implemented a new policy that allows men to become blood donors as long as they haven't had sex with another man in the previous year.

With this decision, the U.K. joined France, Italy, Japan and eight other developed countries in allowing gay and bisexual men to contribute to the nation's blood supply. Many of those countries require sexually active gay men to wait a year before giving blood, while others have deferral periods of six months or five years. Some countries have regulations that focus on potential donors' risky sexual behavior rather than their sexual orientation.

In the United States, however, men who have sex with men are still subject to a lifetime ban on donating blood. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration implemented the ban in 1983 after an estimated 10,000 people with the bleeding disorder hemophilia became infected with HIV through transfusions of HIV-tainted blood.

That policy has become increasingly controversial in recent years. Some experts in the field of blood safety — as well as gay rights activists — say that it's discriminatory and that scientific advances in testing for HIV render it obsolete. Many would like to see the policy changed to resemble the U.K.'s one-year deferral policy or have the ban lifted altogether.
On the other side of the debate are those who say that men who have sex with men still face a heightened risk of contracting HIV and that even a small increased threat to the blood supply isn't justifiable.

The issue has divided major U.S. health organizations. Last year, the FDA denied a request to overturn the ban, but the American Red Cross and others support moving to a one-year deferral.

Read the rest.

[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article's content, whether in support or in opposition.]

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