For the primary time ever, the American Crimson Cross this week declared a national blood shortage crisis and hospitals are placing out calls for donors — but the Meals and Drug Administration continues to ban males who’ve intercourse with males from donating blood.
It’s gone time for the FDA to get rid of this ban. No different group is equally banned from donating blood. Prohibiting solely males who’ve intercourse with males from donating blood is the definition of homophobic, as a result of it presumes that this sexual orientation is unsafe. That’s provably false: Research report no risk to the blood provide in different nations that don’t ban donations from this group of males.
The idea that blood from sexually energetic homosexual and bisexual males is lethal is lethal. UCLA researchers say lifting the ban would imply as many as 350,000 new donors and will deal with greater than one million folks.
The FDA’s current policy is that this: A person who has had intercourse with one other man within the final three months might not donate blood. It’s an outdated artifact of the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
In March 1983, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention published a report that HIV might be transmitted by blood. Shortly after, homosexual and bisexual males started to be turned away from donating blood at Irwin Memorial Blood Bank in San Francisco if they’d been sexually energetic within the final 5 years. This unofficial policy grew to become official in September 1985, when the FDA banned homosexual and bisexual males for all times from donating blood.
That coverage was partially lifted 30 years later when the FDA swapped the lifetime ban for a yr of abstinence. That coverage was shortened to the present three-month ban in April 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic compelled the cancellation of blood drives throughout the nation, inflicting blood supply shortages in New York and Seattle and the lack of sufficient blood to deal with 3,000 folks in Southern California.
The argument for a three-month ban is to account for early an infection that a person is probably not conscious of. In the summertime of 2021, the UK revised its 12-month abstinence requirement to permit blood donations by males who’ve intercourse with males so long as they’ve been monogamous for 3 months. But even a three-month ban is scientifically unwarranted.
The FDA acknowledges that present blood-screening strategies can detect infectious illnesses resembling HIV and hepatitis C inside this three-month window. That the U.S. has subtle screening strategies in place is why nobody was shocked when researchers discovered found no difference in HIV infection when the lifetime ban was shortened to 1 yr in 2015. That is excellent news: With greater than 17 million blood transfusions yearly within the U.S., the nation doesn’t depend on the distinction system. The dangerous information is that individuals are punished for telling the reality about who they’re and blood donors are turned away regardless that their blood is required and could be rigorously screened.
But right here we’re at the moment. To show away blood donors due to their sexual orientation whereas there’s a essential blood scarcity through the worst pandemic in a century is medically baseless and morally reprehensible.
A extra wise strategy could be to evaluate potential blood donors’ threat for infectious illness on a case-by-case foundation, no matter sexual orientation. Different nations are doing simply that. Three weeks in the past, the Canadian Blood Companies announced it could totally carry its ban on males who’ve intercourse with males donating blood. Israel did the identical factor again in August. Each are shifting towards a observe much like Italy’s, which eradicated its ban in 2001. That nation went straight from an outright ban to a person threat evaluation, a observe that doesn’t contemplate sexual orientation however at-risk habits. A examine led by Italy’s Nationwide Institute of Well being compared HIV infection amongst blood donors earlier than and after the ban was lifted. There was no distinction within the fee between males who’ve intercourse with males and heterosexuals.
The ban on blood donations by males who’ve intercourse with males ought to have been ended within the wake of the Pulse Nightclub taking pictures in Orlando in 2016, when males who tried to provide their blood to avoid wasting their buddies’ lives could not do so. Now, as countries all over the world report dangerously low numbers of blood donors and the American Crimson Cross says hospitals within the U.S. have “lower than a day’s provide of sure blood sorts,” the FDA must do what’s medically and morally proper and finish the ban on blood donation by sexually energetic males who’ve intercourse with males.
Jason Silverstein is co-director of the Media, Drugs, and Well being program and lecturer and writer-in-residence on the Division of World Well being and Social Drugs, each at Harvard Medical Faculty.