The United States government on Monday overturned its 30-year ban on blood donations by gay men, saying they can now donate 12 months after their last sexual contact with another man, reported Reuters.
The Food and Drug Administration said its decision to reverse the policy was based on an examination of the latest science which shows that an indefinite ban is not necessary to prevent transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
“Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the U.S. population,” Dr. Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s biologics division, said in a statement.
The move brings the United States in line with countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand which also have 12-month deferral periods.
The Food and Drug Administration enacted the lifetime ban in 1983, early in the AIDS epidemic. The virus that would become known as H.I.V. was discovered that year and no way to test for it in donations existed.
NYT noted, both men and women have sex with strangers who might be infected, of course, but H.I.V. is much more common among gay men, so the perception that they have a higher inherent risk was used to justify the lifetime ban and now underlies the continuation of a 12-month deferral period.
The latest guidelines recommend that the gender of donors “be taken to be self-identified and self-reported.” Some experts had raised the possibility that transgendered women would not be covered by a rule change specifically pertaining to men having sex with men.
The guidelines also state, any woman who has had sex with a man who has had sex with men should also wait 12 months after that encounter before donating blood.
The FDA said its policies have helped reduce HIV transmission rates from blood transfusions from 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 1.47 million.
The FDA first proposed the changes in May. It received some 700 public comments. About half recommended keeping the ban in place.