The American Red Cross has called for the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood to be scrapped.

The Red Cross joined the American Association of Blood Banks and America’s Blood Centers last week in advising the US federal government to change the policy because they believe improved HIV testing has rendered the ban obsolete, The Washington Blade reported.

The current policy prohibits any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood for the rest of his life. The ban was put in place in 1985 at the start of the AIDS epidemic by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

US blood organisations argued against the policy last Thursday 9 March during a conference with the FDA on behaviour-based blood donor deferrals.

In a joint statement the organisations said they believe that the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted.

They recommend that gay men be treated the same as other groups at increased risk for sexual transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections.

The organisations have reportedly not suggested a specific deferral period for gay men, but asked that the period be brought into line with that of other groups, such as a person who has visited a prostitute.

The FDA is yet to comment on the recommendations.

The Australian Red Cross has a similar policy whereby men who have had sex with men in the previous 12 months cannot donate.

A Tasmanian man is trying to have the 12-month deferral period overturned. Michael Cain, 22, lodged a complaint with Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commission after he was blocked from giving blood.

The commission will announce on 31 March whether the case will go before the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.

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