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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that they’re considering making a change to a blood ban that’s been in place for 30 years. The FDA is proposing easing up on the regulation that prohibits gay and bisexual men from ever donating blood during their lives.
Doctor Merlyn Sayers, the CEO of Carter BloodCare, says the ban has already been rolled back in other countries. “What the FDA has seen overseas is a gradual reducing of the restriction on donation by men who have had sex with men and I think what they’ve witnessed, when they’ve analyzed the data, is that there can be a lifting of that restriction, to a certain extent, without there being any risk to infection and transfusion products.”
Since the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s men who had sex with other men haven’t been allowed to donate blood at all. Under the new proposal a gay man could give blood, but with conditions. Sayers explained, “They were going to suggest that there be a restriction on individuals – but individuals who had not had sexual contact for a year would be candidates for donation.”
LGBTQ groups have complained for decades about the policy, especially since the development of new and improved blood screening tests for HIV and other viruses such as hepatitis B and C.
When asked if the FDA was catching up with the times Dr. Sayers said, “Our FDA understandably is a very, very conservative organization. Their regulations are very, very strict. I think we can take some reassurance from the fact that they wouldn’t have considered this alteration in the restriction unless they had really analyzed all the data, both from this country and from overseas.”
According to Dr. Sayers, the FDA will now publish their revised recommendations, invite the public to comment, and then after they’ve seen those comments perhaps move forward with a formal recommendation.
Interestingly, a professional medical group will also soon meet to weigh in on the gay donor one-year deferral policy. Dr. Sayers explained that, “… tomorrow the Blood Product Advisory Committee meets, which is a group of experts assembled by the FDA, to hear what the evidence is to bolster the FDA’s suggestion that the restriction be reduced.” It will be at least a week before the decision of the committee is announced.
While gay rights leaders say the new proposal still unfairly excludes gay men who regularly have sex, the American Medical Association calls the proposal “a step in the right direction.”
As for Dr. Sayers and the direction the North Texas Carter BloodCare blood banks will take, he said, “We really rely on the FDA to make decisions based on transfusion safety that are in our patients best interests. So if the FDA believes that the evidence justifies their lightening the restrictions I’m prepared to be counseled by the FDA.”
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