US Still to Lift Ban on Gays From Donating Blood
NEW DELHI: United States' Food and Drug Administration released a draft proposal on Tuesday last week which contemplates lifting a ban prohibiting gay men from donating blood to other people. The ban had come into force in the year 1985 at the height of AIDS epidemic which was found to be rife among Gays community.
The proposal mulls a partial lifting of ban by stipulating a deferral barring those gay men from donating blood who've had sex with other men in the last 12 months. Whereas under the current law, gays who have had sex even since 1977 are not allowed to donate blood.
American Medical Association (AMA) commended the proposal and defended the deferral clause by citing the risk factors which are anyway taken into account for the rest of the donors as well. American Medical Association President Robert Wah, MD, said, "The AMA's policy supports using scientifically-based deferral periods that are consistently and fairly applied to donors based on their risk level", in a news release issued. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamubrg, MD , said that new policy would be used to “better align the deferral periods with that of other men and women at increased risk for HIV infection” . Individuals who’ve had sex with a prostitute in last one year and those ones with an addiction of taking intravenous drugs are not allowed to donate blood.
However, the LGBT rights advocates are not convinced with the discriminatory clause, by saying that FDA is overlooking the advances made in science which can be used to detect an infection within 10-12 days after exposure.
The impact on public health is also being debated among the medical community. Since, even keeping the conditionality clause after the lifting of ban would cause an increase of 317,000 pints of blood every year, as reported by Medscape website.
The Rights advocacy group Gays and Lesbians Medical Association (GLMA) protested against the conditionality clause and said, "What we have advocated for is a policy that focuses on individual risk rather than deferrals or exclusions based on categories or groups of individuals such as MSM. While there may be some MSM who may be able to donate based on the new policy, the practical effect of the one-year deferral is not much different from a life-time deferral, and it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men."
Currently, like conditionality clauses are being practised in countries such as Sweden, Australia, Britain, and Japan, while Canada has a deferral period of five years before gays and transgender could be allowed to donate their blood. The draft proposal is open for public comment for 60 days, post which a final decision will be taken to make an amendment in the law.