In 1983, at the height of the AIDS crisis, the FDA placed a lifetime ban on the donation of blood and blood products by gay men. The policy was put in place in order to protect the nation’s blood banks from HIV-infected blood. At the time, no reliable and practical test for detecting HIV in the blood existed, and since gay men were among those most likely to be infected, the policy made sense.
Since the advent of HIV testing and the diminishing supplies of available blood, the FDA policy began to make less sense and rather reflect discrimination instead of science. In recent years, that policy has come under heavy fire for misrepresenting 21st Century scientific realities; and the American Red Cross, alongside senators, universities and other organizations, have called for an updated policy that reflects the realities of modern science and technology.
One more voice was added to that conversation this week – and it’s a powerful voice. The American Medical Association (AMA), the organization representing the nation’s physicians, voted this week to end the ban on blood donation by gay men. With advances in HIV testing, the AMA reflected growing opinion that the practice is now discriminatory. “The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science,” said Dr. William Kobler, AMA board member in a statement. “This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.”
Hopefully, the added voice of the AMA will convince the FDA to change its policy.
To read more about the AMA’s vote, click here.
And also read this piece from Tara Sun Vanacore and Abigail Barnes in last October’s issue of The Atlantic.