A group of 18 U.S. senators has requested that the Food and Drug Administration change the policy forbidding gay men from donating blood.
The change would not suddenly allow all gay men to donate blood, however. The proposed policy would only allow gay men and other men who have sex with men to donate if they had not had sex with another man for over a year.
The policy was put in place in 1983 when it became clear that blood transfusions were transmitting whatever was causing AIDS. The ban includes any man who has had sex with another man since 1977.
Once donated, all blood is screened for HIV, which is easily detectable after just a few months in the blood.
The FDA last upheld the ban saying gay men have HIV prevalence “60 times higher than the general population, 800 times higher than first-time blood donors, and 8,000 times higher than repeat blood donors.”
The American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers support the change and claim this would bring the policy related to gay men in line with that used for other people with high-risk behaviors relating to blood donation. However, gay men in monogamous relationships would still be excluded.
Among other western countries that ban gay men from donating blood are Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Australia and Japan use the “one-year deferral” policy.
What isn’t clear about the new policy is where they are going to find men who have sex with men who don’t have sex with men.