The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is lifting its decades old lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. Many people in the LGBT community believe that lifting this ban is a major stride in the right direction toward less discrimination.
However, gay men who have had sex with other men within the past year, will still be prohibited from making a blood donation. The FDA says this measure will keep the blood supply safe. Some gay rights groups believe that the 12-month wait is completely unnecessary and discriminatory. Kelsey Louie from GMHC, a gay advocacy group, says it “ignores the modern science of H.I.V.-testing technology while perpetuating the stereotype that all gay and bisexual men are inherently dangerous.”
The lifetime ban on blood donation was instituted by the FDA in 1983 early on in the AIDS epidemic era. At that time, there was no way to test for HIV through the blood donation process. Now, however, tests are able to determine if a person has the virus only 9 days after the person was infected.
Dr. Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, says the newest tests are “highly accurate but not perfect. That is why the elimination of all deferrals is not feasible at this time.”
The guidelines additionally say that any women who have had sex with men who have also had sex with men should wait 12 months before donating.