The Federal health officials have announced their decision to scrap a three decade old law which prohibits gays and bisexual men from donating blood all their lives on Tuesday. They will now be allowed to do so if they have been celibate for a year. The move to scrap the archaic 31 year old law came after many gay activists and medical groups came down heavily against it. The annual blood supply in the U.S. may rise by 4% or more as a result of lifting the ban.
The Food and Drug Administration next year will propose what’s known as a one-year deferral policy, Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement today.
“The agency will take the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men from indefinite deferral to one year since the last sexual contact,” Hamburg said.
The ban was imposed by FDA in 1983 as a knee jerk reaction to control the spread of AIDS epidemic. Little was known about HIV or its causes. Also, there were no quick tests to check for the presence of the virus. Now that the medical fraternity knows a lot more about the disease, it made sense to lift “the lifetime ban but keeping in place a more modest block on donations by men who have had sex with other men in the last 12 months.”
Many eurpoean countries inclusing Britain have adjusted their lifetime ban on blood donation to 12 month restriction in 2011.
“Men’s health advocates welcomed the move, saying that the ban was not based on the latest science and that it perpetuated stigma about gay men as a risk to the health of the nation. Legal experts said the change brings an important national health policy in line with other legal and political rights, such as permitting gay and people to marry and to serve openly in the military. This is a major victory for gay civil rights,” said I. Glenn Cohen, a law professor at Harvard University who specializes in bioethics and health.
“We’re leaving behind the old view that every gay man is a potential infection source.” He said, however, that the policy was “still not rational enough.”
The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles has estimated that nearly 8.5% of American men or 10 million people have had sex with a man at least once after turning 18. Lifting lifetime ban on them would add 317,000 pints of blood to the annual supply of blood, they say.