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Red Cross calls
for end to ban on gay blood donors

Red Cross calls
for end to ban on gay blood donors

Red Cross joins two other agencies in calling for end to lifetime ban on gay blood donors.

Officials from the American Red Cross, speaking at a recent blood donation conference in Maryland, called for an end to the federal government's ban on gay and bisexual blood donors, the Washington Blade reports. A Food and Drug Administration policy in place since 1985 bans donations from any man who's ever had sex with another man--even one time--since 1977. Even gay men who've tested negative for HIV antibodies and those who are in monogamous relationships are barred for life from donating blood. Government officials, when launching the ban, said it was needed to guarantee the safety of donated blood in the country since gay men were significantly more likely to be infected with HIV than heterosexual men.

But the Red Cross is now joining with the American Association of Blood Banks and America's Blood Centers in calling for an end to the lifetime ban on gay donors.

"The AABB, ABC, and ARC believe that the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted and recommend that deferral criteria be modified and made compatible with criteria for other groups at increased risk for sexual transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections," the groups said in a joint statement issued at the advisory panel meeting, reports the Blade. Because of advances in blood-screening technology, the ban on gay blood donors is unnecessary since virtually all infected blood--from both heterosexual and gay donors--is caught in the screening process. Instead of barring gay donors, prospective donors of all sexual orientations should be asked about any recent risky sexual activity, particularly in the three weeks prior to donating blood, as it is possible for very early HIV infections to be missed during blood screening.

The American Association of Blood Banks in 2000 lobbied for an end to the lifetime ban of gay blood donors, calling instead for a one-year deferral for all gay-male donors. The Red Cross, which supplies about half the nation's blood supply, was opposed to the proposed change, but the organization now says that with better screening methods in place it is now comfortable in calling for an end to the gay ban.

FDA officials were unavailable for comment, reports the Blade. (

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