The American Medical Association (AMA) has recommended overturning the US Food and Drug Administration’s lifetime ban on blood donations by gay men. The ban was put in place in 1983 as a response to the AIDS epidemic, but the AMA has argued the policy is discriminatory.
“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,” the AMA said in a statement.
The AMA’s recommendation would bring the United States in line with countries like the United Kingdom and Australia, which both have a ‘deferral period’ requiring men to abstain from sex with other men for 12 months before blood donation.
Last year the Australian Red Cross Blood Service released a research paper recommending that period be reduced to six months, but no change in policy has been announced.
Spokesperson for the Red Cross Shaun Inguanzo told Star Observer the recommendation is still under consideration, pending a compliance study currently under way.
“We are just waiting for the results of the compliance study, which is being done with the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, but I believe we’re not too far away,” said Inguanzo, explaining the compliance study was part of the original recommendation.
“It [the compliance study] is basically trying to work out, is the information provided to us by donors correct, and if so, how often, or is it incorrect and is that a concern.
“Providing that research says everything is ok, it’s obviously something that would have to go through the Therapeutic Goods Administration and government, but we would look to reducing the deferral if we are able to.”
When it was released the Red Cross study was criticised by some for failing to address the issue of a donation ban on sexually active, healthy gay men, in a process scrutinising the gender of a partner rather than the safety of an individual’s sexual practises.
Addressing these concerns, Inguanzo said donation policies had to be general to ensure a safe blood supply, and that there was not time in the screening process to assess the risk of donors’ sexual partners as well as donors themselves.