Government Should Allow Blood Donation by Men Who Have Sex with Men, Bioethicist Says
"It's time for the government to re-examine its policy of automatically excluding" men who have sex with men from blood donation, Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics, writes in an MSNBC.com op-ed. The 17-year-old FDA policy preventing blood donation by any man who has had sex with a man -- even once -- since 1977 "should have been changed years ago" and "makes little sense," especially in light of the country's "worsening blood shortage," Caplan says. Such men pose no more risk to the nation's blood supply than do heterosexuals who engage in "dangerous" high-risk practices. However, an "even more persuasive" argument for changing the FDA policy arrived with the FDA approval of Chiron Corp.'s test for HIV and hepatitis C. The "uncann[ily] accura[te]" test, unlike previous screening tools for HIV or hepatitis C, can detect the presence of viral DNA in the blood "almost immediately" after infection. Any man or woman who receives a negative result on the Chiron test should be allowed to donate blood, Caplan continues. "The question is whether the FDA and Congress will act or simply let old prejudices about risk stand in the way of finding answers to the very real risk that the growing shortage of blood poses for every American," Caplan concludes (Caplan, MSNBC.com, 3/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.