The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nullified a 30-year ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
The FDA ban, which went into effect during the 1980s AIDS crisis, prohibited blood from gay men as a way to stop transmission of HIV. Many early cases of AIDS and HIV resulted from blood transfusions, as was the case with tennis superstar Arthur Ashe.
However, the new policy will not accept “donations from men who have had sex with another man in the previous year.” Australia and the United Kingdom also use the 12-month window.
“Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the U.S. population,” explained Dr. Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s biologics division.
The FDA said after Australia changed to the 12-month deferral, officials evaluated “more than 8 million units of donated blood” with a “national blood surveillance system.”
Gay activists admitted it is a “step in the right direction,” but said that more needs to be done.
“This new policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply,” declared David Stacy, the Human Rights Coalition’s Government Affairs director. “While it’s a step in the right direction toward an ideal policy that reflects the best scientific research, it still falls far short of a fully acceptable solution because it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men.”