Men Who Have Sex With Men Should Not be Excluded From Blood Donor Programs, Editorial Says
"There is no longer any scientific reason to continue" an FDA policy banning men who have sex with men from donating blood, a Los Angeles Times editorial says. Although the policy "made sense" when HIV/AIDS first appeared in the U.S., all donated blood now is tested for nine infectious diseases -- including hepatitis B and syphilis -- and two tests are conducted to screen for HIV, according to the editorial. "[A]llowing [MSM] to donate would increase the blood supply and potentially save lives," according to the editorial. "A temporary ban for [MSM] would still be needed" because of the "window" of time during which an individual can be HIV-positive and unaware of their status, the editorial says. "A ban of several weeks or months [after having sex] should be sufficient," the editorial adds. In addition, the editorial says that current guidelines fail to "adequately take donor behavior into account" because "questionnaires don't routinely ask about risky behavior." It is "necessary to exclude those who have recently had sex, even with condoms," from donating blood, according to the editorial. "FDA must continue to monitor the nation's blood supply, and it may be necessary to bar donations from those who engage in risky behavior," the editorial says, concluding, "But those decisions should be made according to science" (Los Angeles Times, 6/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.