Friday, May 15, 2015

FDA Mulls Plan to Open Blood Donations to Gay and Bisexual Men

From an article at Medical News Today discussing the FDA's proposal to lift the ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men:
The ban was enforced in 1983 in the wake of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US, restricting all men who have had sex with other men since 1977 from donating blood due to their increased risk of HIV transmission.

In December 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced they have taken the decision to recommend the indefinite ban on blood donation for gay and bisexual men is removed, allowing these men to donate blood providing they have not had sex with another man in the past 12 months.

Yesterday, the FDA issued a draft guidance recommending this change, which - if implemented - will bring the US in line with blood donation regulations for gay and bisexual men in the UK, Australia, Sweden and Argentina, among many other countries.

Men who have ever tested positive for HIV and those who have ever engaged in commercial sex work or non-prescription injection drug use would remain indefinitely deferred from blood donation, however.
However, the primary driver seems to pressure from groups representing gay men and the Red Cross. The article continues:
However, while gay rights activists have campaigned for a change in blood donation regulations for gay and bisexual men for many years, many believe these new guidelines are still not acceptable.

In a blog post from Human Rights Campaign (HRC) - the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights group in the US - HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy says that while the new policy is a "step in the right direction," he believes it "falls far short" as it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men. He adds:
"This policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply.

It simply cannot be justified in light of current scientific research and updated blood screening technology. We are committed to working towards an eventual outcome that both minimizes risk to the blood supply and treats gay and bisexual men with the respect they deserve."
Well, we can't let hurt feelings and lower Red Cross revenue get in the way of protecting the U.S. blood supply!

I've expressed my concern many times that Ebola is in the process of transforming into a sexually transmitted disease. (See here, here, here, here, here, here and here). My concern, set out more fully in this October 2014 post, is that an Ebola STD would likely follow the same path to the United States as had HIV. In Africa, HIV is not mostly limited to homosexuals, as in Europe or the United States. But its spread out of Africa to Europe and the United States was mostly through the sex trade and, most particularly, through the homosexual sex trade. So, perhaps the incidence of HIV is low enough and/or the tests to detect it are accurate and cheap enough to lift the ban, but it merely opens the door to other threats. I recognize that Ebola as an STD is still theoretical, but there is a lot of factors suggesting that is the path it is going to follow. In the face of that possibility, it seems to me to be foolish to lift the ban merely to assuage the feelings of a small minority.

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