Gay men remain
barred for life from donating blood, the government said
Wednesday, leaving in place--for now--a 1983
prohibition meant to prevent the spread of HIV through
The Food and Drug
Administration in Washington reiterated its
long-standing policy on its Web site Wednesday, more than a
year after the Red Cross and two other blood groups
criticized the policy as ''medically and
disappointed, I must confess,'' said Celso Bianco, executive
vice president of America's Blood Centers, whose
members provide nearly half the nation's blood supply.
blood, all men are asked if they have had sex, even once,
with another man since 1977. Those who say they have are
permanently barred from donating. The FDA said those
men are at increased risk of infection by HIV, which
can be transmitted to others by blood transfusion.
In March 2006,
the Red Cross, the international blood association AABB,
and America's Blood Centers proposed replacing the lifetime
ban with a one-year deferral following male-to-male
sexual contact. New and improved tests, which can
detect HIV-positive donors within just 10 to 21 days of
infection, make the lifetime ban unnecessary, the blood
groups told the FDA.
In a document
posted Wednesday, the FDA said it would change its policy
if given data that show doing so wouldn't pose a
''significant and preventable'' risk to blood
''It is a way of
saying, 'Whatever was presented to us was not sufficient
to make us change our minds,' '' Bianco said.
The FDA said HIV
tests currently in use are highly accurate but still
cannot detect the virus 100% of the time. The estimated HIV
risk from a unit of blood is currently about one per 2
million in the United States, according to the agency.
Critics of the
exclusionary policy said it bars potential healthy donors,
despite the increasing need for donated blood, and
discriminates against gays. The FDA recognized the
policy defers many healthy donors but rejected the
suggestion it's discriminatory.
Anyone who's used
intravenous drugs or been paid for sex also is
permanently barred from donating blood. (AP)