US regulator lifts lifetime ban on gay blood donations

December 23, 2015 6:34 am 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 — The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Monday it has lifted a 30-year-old lifetime ban on blood donations by gay men, allowing those who haven't had sexual contact with other men in a year to do so.

With the decision, the United States joined countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, which also have 12-month deferrals for men who have sex with men to donate blood.

"In reviewing our policies to help reduce the risk of HIV transmission through blood products, we rigorously examined several alternative options, including individual risk assessment," said Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

"Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the US population."

For commercial sex workers and injection drug users, insufficient data are available to support a change to the existing deferral recommendations at this time, the FDA said.

People with hemophilia or related clotting disorders are also still deferred from donating blood. The rationale, however, has changed "from preventing HIV transmission to ensuring that such donors are not harmed by the use of large bore needles during the donation process," said the US regulator.

The FDA said it will closely monitor the effects of the current changes over the next few years in order to help ensure that blood safety is maintained.

"At the same time, the FDA will continue to work in this area and review its donor deferral policies to ensure they reflect the most up-to-date scientific knowledge," it said in a statement.

"This process must be data-driven, so the timeframe for future changes is not something that can be predicted."

The FDA's ban on gay blood donations dated back to 1983, when the risk of AIDS from transfusion was first recognized.

The ban, the use of donor education materials and advances in HIV donor testing have helped reduce the US HIV transmission rates from blood transfusion from 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 1.47 million. (PNA/Xinhua)

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