1-Year Blood Donation Deferral Policy a Step in the Right Direction, Still Needlessly Discriminates Against Gay and Bisexual Men

FDA Should Implement Scientifically Accurate, Risk-Based Deferral System for All Donors

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that it recommends replacing the outdated lifetime blood-donation ban for gay and bisexual men with a one-year deferral period — requiring gay and bisexual men to be celibate for twelve months — before being eligible to donate blood. While removing the lifetime ban is a step forward, even the one-year deferral continues to perpetuate discrimination against gay and bisexual men.

For decades, we have known that HIV is not a “gay disease” and a government policy that equates being gay with living with HIV is indefensible. Consequently, AIDS United calls for implementation of a risk-based deferral system for all donors — not just gay and bisexual men — improving the safety of our nation’s blood supply without perpetuating discrimination.

“The lifetime ban on gay men donating blood has not made sense for decades, but this first step is not enough” said Ronald Johnson, vice president of Policy and Advocacy at AIDS United. “We call on the FDA to move to an individualized, comprehensive and effective deferral system for all donors based on actual — not perceived — risk.”

AIDS United has long recommended that the FDA establish policies that carefully distinguish between high- and low-risk behavior based on a modern and medically based understanding of HIV transmission. Italy, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, Poland, and Russia have successfully implemented similar blood-donation policies. GMHC, a longtime member of the AIDS United Public Policy Committee, details how such a system could be implemented in their report, “A Drive for Change: Reforming U.S. Blood Donation Policies.” AIDS United fully supports GMHC’s findings and recommendations and urges the FDA to consider the report in future policymaking.

AIDS United also urges the FDA to move forward with the implementation of a hemovigilance system to track, report, investigate and analyze risks and adverse reactions that can occur as a result of blood transfusion. Such a system would increase the safety of the blood supply and provide an early warning system for potential threats.

“AIDS United aligns itself with our friends in the hemophilia and blood products recipient communities to strongly urge the FDA to move forward on a hemovigilance system that increases the safety of the blood supply,” said Johnson. “We urge the FDA to take these steps to improve the safety of our blood supply without perpetuating discrimination against gay and bisexual men.”

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About AIDS United
Created by a merger between the National AIDS Fund and AIDS Action in late 2010, AIDS United’s mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in the United States, through strategic grant-making, capacity building, formative research and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV/AIDS care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV/AIDS-related policy for U.S. populations and communities most impacted by the epidemic. To date, our strategic grant-making initiatives have directly funded more than $85.8 million to local communities, and have leveraged more than $110 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to, HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction and advocacy.