California County Board of Supervisors Votes To Oppose FDA Policy Barring MSM From Donating Blood
The Santa Clara County, Calif., Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to oppose an FDA policy that prohibits men who have sex with men from donating blood, the San Jose Mercury New reports. The board also voted to encourage the board's federal lobbyists to work to overturn the ban, according to the Mercury News (Lohse, San Jose Mercury New, 2/27).
According to the FDA policy, which has been in effect since the early 1980s, MSM are barred from donating blood regardless of sexual activity, safer-sex practices or HIV status. Potential blood donors are asked to fill out a questionnaire before donating, and MSM, injection drug users, people who received a tattoo within the previous 12 months and pregnant women are prohibited from donating. The American Red Cross, American Association of Blood Banks and America's Blood Centers in March 2006 asked FDA to review the policy, saying that banning MSM from donating blood within 12 months of sexual activity with another man would be more fair than a lifelong ban. The groups say that the likelihood of receiving a unit of HIV-infected blood is one in two million and that blood banks use nucleic acid testing, which detects HIV and hepatitis earlier than older testing methods. In addition, HIV is increasingly transmitted through heterosexual sex, and women account for more than one-quarter of all new HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S., according to CDC (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/24/07).
The board said it took the step, which was proposed by Supervisor Ken Yeager, because of advances made in HIV screening since the ban was imposed, the Mercury News reports. The board did not vote to ban blood drives on county property because of concerns about shortages in donor blood supplies for local hospitals. However, the board said it might consider such a ban in the future. San Jose State University's president recently halted blood drives on the university campus, saying the policy that bans MSM from donating blood violates the school's anti-discrimination regulations (San Jose Mercury News, 2/27).