FDA to Drop Lifetime Ban on Blood Donations From Gay Men

The FDA plans to lift the lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with other men. Instead, the agency will permit donations if at least one year has elapsed since the donor’s last sexual contact with another man. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., noted in her December 23, 2014, announcement that the new policy would align blood centers’ treatment of men who have sex with men more closely to the treatment of other individuals who have engaged in behaviors that increase their risk of AIDS.

Science-Based Decision Making

Hamburg stated that the agency’s decision was consistent with the scientific research and the recommendation of the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a component of the National Institutes of Health. The FDA is collaborating with the NHLBI to implement a national blood surveillance system to monitor the safety of the blood supply. The agency plans to issue a draft guidance on the subject in 2015.

Public Reaction

Response to the announcement has been mixed. The American Association of Blood Banks and America’s Blood Centers issued a joint statement supporting the FDA’s announcement as “consistent with [our] position that the current lifetime deferral is scientifically unwarranted.” Nevertheless, the organizations noted that the lifetime deferral policy remains in effect until the FDA finalizes its guidance. David Stacy, Government Affairs Director of the Human Rights Campaign, said that the proposal continues to stigmatize gay men based solely on their sexual orientation, while the scientific research and the available blood testing technology would adequately protect the blood supply.