HHS Moves to Revisit Gay Blood Donor Ban
The Obama administration says it will review the decades-old policy that prohibits men who have sex with men—known as MSM—from donating blood.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will conduct an “evidence-based evaluation” of the ban, which was enacted in 1985 to reduce the risk of HIV transmission in the nation’s blood supply.
HHS says it needs to study four specific areas before considering a policy change, which include: comparing the risk of contamination in the current donor population to that of the prospective donor pool; determining the root cause of “accidental release” of blood not cleared for use; making sure potential donors understand the current setup, while also getting MSM to comply with modified criteria for donating; AND FINALLY creating alternative strategies to screen MSM that would assure blood safety and accurate data collection.
Nathan Schaefer is the Director of Public Policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Schaefer says these areas of research will help create a national dialogue about the need to reform blood safety “much more broadly.” He also says that technological advances have helped his group make its case AGAINST the ban.
SCHAEFER: So if you consider how far we’ve come with our ability to detect HIV, it’s leaps and bounds away from where we were in the early 1980s before we had any kind of HIV testing. Now we can actually detect for HIV infection within 9 to 11 days.
Schaefer says GMHC looks forward to working with HHS in implementing any changes to what he calls an “antiquated” policy.