Monday June 14, 2010

U.S. Blood Ban for Gays Remains

By James Tillman

WASHINGTON, DC, June 14, 2010 ( – The federal Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability (ACBSA) voted 9-6 Friday to maintain current blood-donation rules, which effectively forbid practicing homosexuals from donating blood.

Specifically, the rules defer any prospective blood donor if he is a man who has had sex with another man since 1977, approximately the beginning of the AIDS outbreak.

The role of the advisory panel is to offer non-binding advice to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

“Common sense has triumphed over political correctness, an increasingly rare but very welcome occurrence,” said the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg in response.

“This panel heard a day and a half of testimony, including the latest research on HIV risks in the blood supply, but in the end they recognized that there is no alternative screening policy that can be shown to maintain the safety of the nation’s blood supply.”

Sen. John Kerry and 17 other Senate Democrats have asked the FDA to end its “discriminatory” ban, arguing that current blood tests can detect HIV. The indefinite deferral of men who have sex with men (MSM) began in 1983, before the availability of tests for HIV, they said.

“Not a single piece of scientific evidence supports the ban,” Kerry has stated.

Critics, however, have pointed out that there is a period of up to six months after a person becomes infected in which blood tests do not reveal HIV, and during which the infected person might still transmit it to someone else.

The FDA also states that tests for HIV can fail to detect all infected donors. According to the FDA, because there are over 20 million blood transfusions each year, even a very small failure rate increases the risk of undetected HIV in the donor population.

In his testimony before the ACBSA, Sprigg said the claim that “the current policy ‘discriminates’ on the basis of ‘sexual orientation’ is highly misleading.”

He said that the term “sexual orientation” encompasses the psychological phenomenon of sexual attraction, the sociological phenomenon of sexual self-identification, and the physical phenomenon of sexual behavior. Only the last of these pertains to the issue of blood donor prohibition, and it is “based on a well-documented behavior risk – nothing more, and nothing less.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, although MSM (males who have sex with males) are estimated to account for 4% of the U.S. male population, the rate of new HIV diagnoses among them is more than 44 times that of other men. They account for more than half of all new HIV infections in the U.S. each year.

Although new HIV infections have recently declined both among heterosexuals and injection drug users, the annual number of new HIV infections among MSM has steadily increased since the early 1990s. MSM also have far greater rates of syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases than do heterosexuals.

Said Sprigg: “I understand that there are many people who wish to advance the socio-political goal of winning greater acceptance of homosexuality.”

“However, the blood donation policy does not exist to serve socio-political purposes, nor should it be changed to advance them.”

He concluded: “Only the scientific evidence matters, and it indicates that the current policy should remain in place.”

See related stories on

Researchers Argue Homosexuals Should be Allowed to Give Blood

DA: Gay Men Still Banned from Donating Blood Over Documented Risk Concerns


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