The American Red Cross has called on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ease its policy on blood donation for gay men.
For decades until late 2015, the FDA banned sexually active gay men from donating blood altogether. That changed to a 12-month ban on blood donation for men after having sex with another man.
But now the American Red Cross is now recommending that be reduced to three-months, in line with Britain and Canada.
“As a scientifically-based interim step, the Red Cross encourages the Food and Drug Administration to consider reducing its deferral time for men who have sex with men (MSM) from twelve to three months while further options are evaluated for the United States,” the Red Cross said.
“This is consistent with policy changes made by several other countries including Canada and Great Britain.
“We also strongly support the expanded use of new technologies to work toward elimination of donor eligibility questions that would no longer be necessary.
The American Red Cross is regulated by the FDA and can’t itself enact changes to the deferral policy on men who have sex with men.
However, the Red Cross says it “believes blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation.”
“We ask advocates and stakeholders to join us in this important dialogue around the existing deferral policy and pathways toward achieving our goal, while recognizing the need to always maintain patient safety,” the statement read.
“Together, we will work toward an inclusive and equitable blood donation process that treats all potential donors with equality and respect, and ensures a safe, sufficient blood supply.”
Australia’s 12 month ban for gay blood donors is being reviewed
In Australia, the Red Cross Blood Service also prevents Australian men from donating if they’ve had male-to-male sex in the last 12 months.
The Blood Service says the exclusion period is one of several for donors “more likely to be exposed to infection or present other risks to the recipient.”
“The Blood Service is not discriminating against anyone based on their sexuality; rather the policies are based on assessment of risk,” the Red Cross website reads.
However, that deferral period is under review. The Blood Service received an expert-led review last November.
The service says it will consider a number of options and make a submission to Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.
State and federal government will make a final decision on any change to the deferral period.
In July, Red Cross Blood Service chief medical officer Joanne Pink said there was an important balance between donation rates and blood safety.
“I understand this blood safety rule really frustrates people,” she said.
“We’re really pleased to be reviewing it again. But it’s important we don’t take blood safety for granted.”
In 2014, the Therapeutic Goods Administration rejected a bid to halve the 12-month waiting period following a review.
However, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has said the Blood Service could safely reduce the deferral period due to advances in HIV testing.
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