The American Medical Association voted Tuesday to oppose a 30 year old ban by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which prohibits gay men from donating blood according to ABC news on June 20.
The ban originated in 1983 at the height of the AIDS outbreak during a time when there was little education about the disease or even how to treat the disease. Because gay men were at a higher risk during the time, the ban was initiated but the AMA feels the policy is now outdated because HIV and AIDS testing is done prior to a recipient receiving a transfusion. In fact, according to the FDA website, only 1 in 2 million blood transfusions results in an HIV infection.
The AMA also believes that the life time ban on gay men donating blood is discriminatory. AMA board member Dr. William Kobler feels that it is “not based on sound science and states:
“This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.”
The AMA is pushing for the FDA to change its policy so that gay men are evaluated on an individual basis and not grouped together as an automatic high risk.
Because of new technology that can detect HIV in nearly all blood donations, there shouldn’t be as great of a fear as there was during the time the policy was initiated. Robert Valadez, a policy analyst for the HIV/AIDS advocacy group Gay Men’s Health Crisis, said “it is antiquated to keep this policy in place and to keep those units of blood from entering the blood supply.”
But with gay men representing 61 percent of all new HIV infections in the U.S. according to the FDA website, there still may have to be some sort of measure in place. In other countries like Wales and Scotland, gay men are allowed to donate as long as they refrain from having sex with men for 12 months.
This would be a possible option for the FDA and the AMA also recommends that a policy change should be crafted on more accurate scientific research and not based on the assumption that all gay men are high-risk.