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The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) applauds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on their announcement today eliminating the outdated lifetime blood-donation ban for gay and bisexual men, enacting instead a rule that bans men who have had sex with men within the past year from donating blood. While the removal of the lifetime ban is a critical step forward, this one-year deferral period continues to unfairly discriminate against gay and bisexual men.
“It is very encouraging to see the FDA take this step and change what has been a longstanding, but inherently discriminatory policy,” said John Peller, president/CEO of AFC.
The lifetime blood-donation ban originated during the early AIDS crisis when the disease was found mostly among communities of gay and bisexual men. Since then, important knowledge about HIV has emerged, making any ban both scientifically and medically unwarranted. While the policy change is an important step to destigmatize HIV as a “gay disease,” further steps must be taken by the FDA to reduce the discriminatory effects of the policy.
To counteract stigma and discrimination, AFC urges the FDA to implement a risk-based deferral system for all prospective donors. A comprehensive screening system that assesses every donor’s actual risk, regardless of sexual orientation, can improve the safety of the nation’s blood supply without discriminating against and stigmatizing gay and bisexual men.
“The FDA still needs to do more to end unwarranted discrimination against gay and bisexual men while safeguarding the safety of the nation’s blood supply,” says Ramon Gardenhire, vice president of Policy at AFC. “A one-year ban is still unreasonable and discriminatory against gay and bisexual men, many of whom are safe blood donors.”
AFC joins the growing national consensus on the need to improve the blood donation policies and discrimination against gay and bisexual men.