Monday, February 19, 2007

Lift the Ban

If you're a male who has sex with males, you can't donate blood. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association has called on the FDA to reverse its position:

Within the past year the American Red Cross and other organizations that collect donated blood, including the American Association of Blood Banks and America's Blood Centers, have encouraged the FDA to review a policy in effect since the early 1980s that prohibits men who have sex with men “regardless of sexual activity, safer-sex practices or HIV status” from donating blood. The groups say that the likelihood of receiving a unit of HIV-infected blood is one in two million and that blood banks use nucleic acid testing, which detects HIV and hepatitis earlier and much more accurately than older testing methods.

GLMA Executive Director Joel Ginsberg stated, “Two decades ago, when the agent that causes AIDS was unknown, these guidelines might have made sense based on the very limited data available at that time. Today, however, all donated units of blood are tested, not just for antibodies to HIV, but for the presence of the virus itself. These guidelines, which prohibit any man who has had sex with another man since 1977, have the effect of excluding all gay men from donating blood.”

Ginsberg continued that the epidemiology of the HIV epidemic has changed and that heterosexual women are now the fastest-growing demographic group to be diagnosed with HIV infection.