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FDA Proposes Lifting Ban on Homosexual Blood Donations

Agency collecting comments on proposal for 60 days before issuing final rules

WEDNESDAY, May 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Gay and bisexual men who have abstained from sex for one year would be allowed to donate blood in the United States, under a new federal policy unveiled Tuesday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its intentions in a draft guidance that was first proposed in December. The agency said it would collect public comments on the proposal for 60 days before issuing final rules. Implementing the "one year deferral" clause for gay or bisexual men would reverse a three-decade-old ban on donations from this group that traces back to the start of the AIDS epidemic. The FDA said it was changing its policy based on data from other countries that show allowing such donations would not increase the risk of HIV-tainted blood entering America's blood supply.

The change will better align the FDA's donation policy for gay and bisexual men with its policies regarding other people potentially exposed to HIV, officials said. For example, there's currently a maximum one-year deferral policy in the United States for blood donations by men who have had sex with an HIV-positive woman or commercial sex workers. The same goes for women who have had sex with HIV-positive men. However, sexually active gay men in a monogamous relationship would not be allowed to donate blood under the new policy. The FDA also will implement a national blood surveillance system that will help the agency monitor the effect of the policy change and ensure the safety of the blood supply.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Robert Wah, M.D., president of the American Medical Association, said that his group "commends the FDA for taking a step in the right direction to end the lifetime ban that prohibits men who have had sex with men from ever donating blood." Wah added that "the AMA fully supports and has been a strong advocate for eliminating these current public policies as we believe that the latest scientific evidence should dictate blood and tissue donation deferral periods to ensure the safety of the national blood supply. The AMA's policy supports using scientifically-based deferral periods that are consistently and fairly applied to donors based on their risk level."

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