Should ban on homosexual blood donors be eased?

By Les Kinsolving

A Health and Human Services advisory panel has recommended that the current policy on Men-Who-Have-Sex-With-Men – which bans men as blood donors if they have had sex with a man since 1977 – be changed.

This panel recommends that this be changed to 12 months after the last sexual encounter. That simply raises what is a life-and-death question: Since when has AIDS been found to last only 12 months?

Government health advisers have expressed serious concern about lifting the 31-year-old ban on blood donations from homosexual and bisexual men, despite growing pressure from gay-rights advocates.

A Food and Drug Administration panel heard reports on scientific studies aimed at changing the blood-donor system to admit sexually active homosexual men, as well as ways to see if there is an increase in the number of infected units. This amounts to a threat against blood banks to include blood from donors who are persons with a high rate of AIDS.

Dr. Susan Leitman of the FDA had the following comment:

“If I look at the science, I would be very wary of a one-year deferral. It sounds to me like we’re talking about policy and civil rights rather than our primary duty, which is transmission safety.”

Washington Times columnist Cheryl Wetzstein reported:

“According to a 2011-2012 study, the most sensitive blood tests caught 14 units of HIV-infected blood, 13 unites of Hepatitis B-infected blood and 60 units of Hepatitis C-infected blood. These 87 units had slipped past other serological tests, which caught some 4,400 units of blood infected with these pathogens.

“[Blood Products Advisory Committee] panelist Corey S. Dubin, president of the Committee of Ten Thousand, a blood-users group, urged federal officials to ensure any change in the [Men-Who-Have-Sex-With-Men] policy is accompanied by a fully funded, comprehensive national blood-monitoring system. Any assurances about blood safety ‘evaporate’ without that system, he said.

“Miriam O’Day, an official with Alpha 1 Foundation, another blood-users group, asked the panel to stay focused on ‘the recipients, not on the donors.’ This is about ensuring blood safety, she said. ‘It’s not a political issue.'”

Media wishing to interview Les Kinsolving, please contact [email protected].

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