The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was lifting a lifetime ban on homosexual or bisexual men from donating blood, as long as they had not had sex for at least a year.
The FDA action contradicts a decision earlier this month from its own expert panel, which did not recommend changing the lifetime ban for men having sex with men, as well as hearing expert testimony that a one-year ban would not be adequate to protect public health.
A panel of 17 experts on the FDA's Blood Products Advisory Panel voted against the change this month, but an HHS panel had backed the one-year limit.
In a press release, the FDA insisted that it had “carefully examined and considered the available scientific evidence” and taken into account “the recommendations of advisory committees to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FDA” before making its decision.
Although a sliver of the population, men who have sex with men (MSM) make up more than 60 percent of all new AIDS cases. The percentage of HIV-positive men who knowingly have sex with other men without using a condom has increased over the last decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to nearly two-thirds (62 percent).
Doctor Steve Kleinman, senior medical adviser to the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), told LifeSiteNews earlier this month that current testing catches at least 999,999 of every 1 million HIV/AIDS-infected blood donations. The Red Cross states there are 9.2 million U.S. blood donors every year.
“Members of the Blood Products Advisory Committee were clearly reluctant to recommend any change to the current policy in the absence of a national program of comprehensive monitoring of the entire blood transfusion system from donor to recipient,” Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said. “Research presented to the Committee confirmed the dramatically elevated risk of HIV infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) – a risk 62 times higher than in the general public. This risk certainly justifies the highest level of vigilance, and political and social concerns must not be allowed to trump the public health.”
The FDA announced that it would issue a draft guidance for implementing the new policy on homosexual blood donation sometime in 2015, at which time the public will have an opportunity to comment.
“It is shocking that the FDA did not even wait for a recommendation from their own Advisory Committee before rushing to the politically correct decision demanded by homosexual activist groups,” Sprigg said.
Homosexual organizations were overjoyed but demanded they should be allowed to give blood without a requirement of celibacy.
“This is a major victory for gay rights,” Harvard Law School professor I. Glenn Cohen told the New York Times. But John Peller, president and chief executive officer of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, told Reuters, “We think that it's a step in the right direction but it certainly doesn't go far enough.”
Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said, “We simply do not have the scientific evidence to show that you can go to a shorter period.”
The previous policy that no blood be collected from any male who has had sex with another male since 1977 had been in place since 1983.