The HHS Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability (ACBSA) met over the course of two days (June 10-11, 2010) to discuss the current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy on men who have sex with other men (MSM). The current Food and Drug Administration policy states that men who have had sex with other men at any time since 1977 are currently prohibited from donating blood.
The committee discussed important factors involved in changing the policy to lift the prohibition, including the most accurate scientific information, new studies on the matter and potential new monitoring tools that could be implemented. The committee bifurcated the discussion into a two-part vote; first deciding whether or not the current policy should change and secondly whether more information or studies need to be conducted in order consider further action is needed.
Ultimately, the 15-member ACBSA committee voted 6-9 against changing the current policy. The members continued their discussions in order to recommend future studies or considerations in order for what would justify a policy shift. The committee responded in a filed report justifying their decision.
“Whereas we believe that the current donor deferral policies are suboptimal in permitting some potentially high risk donations while preventing some potentially low risk donations, we find that currently available scientific data are inadequate to support change to a specific alternative policy; therefore, until further evaluation, the committee recommends that the current indefinite deferral for men who have had sex with another man even one time since 1977 not be changed at the present time,” the committee report states.
Gay advocate Peter Tatchell states that the ban on gay blood donors “is based on the assumption that all homosexual and bisexual men are ‘high risk’ for HIV” and that the “policy seems to reflect homophobic prejudices, not medical facts.”
The American Association of Blood Banks and the American Red Cross have agreed in concert that the FDA ban is unwarranted and had recommended a one-year period of abstinence by gay and bisexual men. The two associations say a one-year waiting period offers enough time to screen out blood infected with HIV. Doctors seem to be split on the issue.
“Many groups of people are not allowed to donate blood. If you have visited a country with malaria you are not allowed to donate for a year. This does not mean that if you visit a country with malaria you have or will have malaria. It is strictly a percentage thing; your chances are much higher. Homosexual/Bisexuals are currently not allowed to donate blood. Not because they have HIV but because they are 44 times more likely to have HIV than a heterosexual male. According to the CDC, it is the only risk group where the rate of new infections has been increasing,” said Dr. Hurley Braden, who has done extensive research considering the ban.
Dr. Hurley E. Braden, M.D.