AHF: New FDA Policy on Gay Blood Donors Remains Flawed

While the FDA policy update announced today will lift a decades-long lifetime ban on blood donations by gay men, restrictions in the new policy—including a provision that would allow gay men and other men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) to donate blood only if they haven’t had sex with another man in the previous year—continue to stigmatize gay men by reinforcing the idea of HIV as a “gay” disease.

WASHINGTON--()--While a proposed updated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy governing blood donations from gay men and men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) will overturn a decades-long lifetime ban on such donations, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization notes the updated policy remains deeply flawed and continues to stigmatize gay men and MSM by reinforcing the idea that HIV is a “gay” disease. The updated FDA policy announced earlier today includes a provision that would now allow gay men and other men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) to donate blood only if they haven’t had sex with another man in the previous year—a move the American Civil Liberties Union has said will in essence “…function as a de facto lifetime ban.”

“While well-intended, this new FDA policy overturning the lifetime ban on gay and MSM blood donations in not based in science and continues to stigmatize gay men and perpetuates the myth that HIV is a ‘gay’ disease,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “The New York Times reports that the FDA said it had ‘carefully examined and considered the scientific evidence’ before changing the policy. Yet this policy change remains rooted in age-old misconceptions about gay men and has little to do with actual science. Since the ban was first put in place in 1983, technology for screening blood has improved dramatically. Even if it is not as draconian as before, FDA policy on blood donors should really be focused on individual risk factors and not simply target an entire category or population of people for exclusion or restriction from the donor pool.”

According to a 2010 study published by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, the FDA’s decision to initiate a 12-month deferral process for MSM is expected to result in more than 53 thousand additional men donating nearly 90 thousand pints of blood each year.1

In a 2013 study, researchers compared Italy’s pre-2001 highly restrictive blood donation policy to its post-2001 policy that focused on individual risk factors. According to the study’s results, the new policy did not result in an increase in HIV transmission through blood donation.2

According to a 2010 study, Australia’s 12-month deferral process did not result in an increase in HIV transmission through blood donation.3

About AIDS Healthcare Foundation

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 372,000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare.

1 Source: Goldberg NG et al. (2010). Effects of Lifting Blood Donation Bans on Men Who Have Sex with Men. The Williams Institute. Retrieved online: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/health-and-hiv-aids/effects-of-lifting-blood-donation-bans-on-men-who-have-sex-with-men/

2 Suligoi B et al. (2013). Changing blood donor screening criteria from permanent deferral for men who have sex with men to individual sexual risk assessment: no evidence of a significant impact on the human immunodeficiency virus epidemic in Italy. Blood Transfusion, 11(3): 441-448.

3 Seed CR et al. (2010). No evidence of a significantly increased risk of transfusion-transmitted human immunodeficiency virus infection in Australia subsequent to implementing a 12-month deferral for men who have had sex with men (CME). Transfusion, 50(12): 2722-2730.

Contacts

AHF
Ged Kenslea, Senior Director, Communications
+1-323-308-1833 work
+1-323-791-5526 mobile
gedk@aidshealth.org

Release Summary

AHF: New FDA Policy on Gay Blood Donors Remains Flawed-Policy continues to stigmatize gay men by reinforcing the idea of HIV as a “gay” disease

Contacts

AHF
Ged Kenslea, Senior Director, Communications
+1-323-308-1833 work
+1-323-791-5526 mobile
gedk@aidshealth.org