BLOOD donations from men who have had sex with men (MSM) any time after 1977 will continue to be “indefinitely deferred” in the US, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently failed to recommend lifting the ban.

The decision comes after the 17-member committee met last week to discuss the possibility of lifting the 31-year-old lifetime ban, which was enacted at a time when AIDS was an epidemic within the gay community.

Rights groups have argued that the policy is discriminatory and does not take into account modern technologies, which are able to detect HIV within weeks of transmission.

A number of organisations have also been vocal in opposing the ban, including the American Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association called for individual risk assessments to be made, as is the case in Italy.

Last month a different committee, the Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability, met and voted 16-2 in favour of lifting the ban and enacting a deferral period of 12 months.

The deferral means that MSM who have been celibate for a year will be allowed to donate blood.

In Australia, as well as the UK, Sweden, and Japan, the deferral period is 12 months. In South Africa, the period is 6 months.

A 2010 report by the Australian Red Cross (ARC) compared five-year periods before and after switching to the 12 month deferral policy and found no increase in the risk for HIV in Australia.

Last year, the ARC Blood Service reviewed the current policies.

Their recommendation to reduce the time from 12 to six months was rejected by the Therapeutic Goods Authority, Australia’s equivalent to the FDA.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations along with the ARC continue to advocate for the six month reduction.


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