The US Food and Drug Administration officially announced today that it has officially lifted its blanket lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.
But the updated policy only permits gay and bisexual men to donate blood if they have not had sex with another man for a year.
‘In practice, the new policy is still a continuation of the lifetime ban and ignores the modern science of HIV-testing technology while perpetuating the stereotype that all gay and bisexual men are inherently dangerous,’ Gay Men’s Health Crisis CEO Kelsey Louie said in a blistering statement.
‘Blood donation policies should be based on science, not stigma. The United States government has to stop reacting to HIV like it is the early 1980s.’
The ban was enacted during the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the US and prohibited any man who has had sex with another man, even once, since 1977 from donating blood.
Louie points out that no such restrictions are placed on heterosexual men even if their sexual behavior places them at high risk for HIV.
He cites Italy as an example of a country that has implemented risk-based deferral systems that reflect modern science. They have been screening all donors for behavior that could lead to HIV transmission since 2001.
Lambda Legal is also blasting the new policy and points out that ‘risk behaviors do not have a sexual orientation or gender identity.’
‘… The policy still excludes the vast majority of gay, bisexual and transgender men from donating,’ states Lambda’s HIV Project Director Scott Schoettes.
It was last December that US Senator Tammy Baldwin called for an end to the ban. She is also not fully satisfied with the new policy either because it isn’t based on individual risk factors and still unfairly singles out one group of individuals.
‘This is just the first step toward ending an outdated policy that is medically and scientifically unwarranted,’ Baldwin says. ‘This revision doesn’t go far enough.’