December 23, 2014 - The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced today it is planning to remove the decades-old FDA policy banning any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood and replacing it with a one-year deferral period for MSM. GLMA President Henry Ng, MD, MPH, and Executive Director Hector Vargas, Esq., issued the following statement:
“The FDA’s removal of the lifetime ban on blood donation for MSM is an important first step toward an optimal blood donation deferral policy addressing individual behaviors, including specific at-risk sexual behavior regardless of sexual orientation or gender, that would justify a deferral period based on the science. GLMA supports nothing less than a paradigm shift away from any categorical restriction on MSM donating blood to a blood donation deferral policy based in individual behaviors. While the removal of the lifetime ban is a step in the right direction, GLMA remains concerned about the one-year deferral period for MSM being proposed by the FDA today because it continues to perpetuate stigma among gay and bisexual men.
“Since 1983, when the FDA first addressed blood donation by MSM and effectively banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood, GLMA has called for a blood donation deferral policy that is rooted in up-to-date science, promotes the safety of blood products and ends the stigmatizing impact of the FDA policy on gay and bisexual men. Knowledge about prevention, transmission and screening for HIV has changed significantly in the last 30 years and current testing technologies and window periods for detecting HIV and other blood-borne illnesses in the blood supply support a deferral period for at-risk sexual behavior of substantially less than one year. These developments only serve to reinforce GLMA’s position that any categorical blood donation deferment for MSM for any length of time is arbitrary, stigmatizing and not scientifically supported.
“GLMA calls on the FDA to commit to a reasonable timeline to develop a blood donation policy that addresses individual behaviors, including specific at-risk sexual behavior regardless of sexual orientation or gender. GLMA further calls on the FDA to establish a robust hemovigilance system that contributes to a safe blood supply. We pledge to continue our 30-year effort—with our partners and the FDA—to support these necessary and scientifically-sound changes.”
The FDA plans to issue proposed guidance open to public comment on this policy change in early 2015. This fall, GLMA President-Elect Jesse Joad, MD, MS, represented GLMA before two advisory committees reviewing the blood-donation policy. Click here to read more about GLMA’s efforts on this issue.