In a historic decision taken by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), gay men have now been allowed to donate blood, but only under certain circumstances.
The decision, announced on Monday, December 21, comes after 32 years during which homosexual men were prohibited from providing blood transfusions to others.
According to FDA representatives, that ban was successful in curbing the rate of HIV infections associated with intravenous blood samples, thus reducing the number of people suffering from AIDS.
Such contaminations with the human immunodeficiency virus are now encountered during just 1 in 1.47 million transfusions, whereas earlier they were much more frequent, accounting for 1 in 2,500 such medical procedures.
However, back in May federal authorities have first suggested the idea that gay men should be permitted to assist others as blood donors after all.
The proposal was prompted by the fact that recent research has revealed that it’s not necessary to impose a permanent interdiction when it comes to blood transfusions received from homosexuals.
Instead, as explained by Dr. Peter Marks, deputy director at FDA’s Center for Biologic Evaluation and Research, the only precaution that must be taken is to make sure that all gay men that donate blood haven’t had sexual intercourse with a male partner in the last 12 months.
When this idea was initially debated around 7 months ago, it triggered around 700 reactions from members of the public, around half of them being in favor with maintaining this restriction after all.
However, now it was recently decided that the ban should be lifted, so as to make blood donation regulations more inclusive than ever before.
There will still be certain disallowances for other categories of potential donors, such as former sex workers or intravenous drug addicts.
There is also a ban concerning those who suffer from blood coagulation impairments, such as hemophilia. In the past, this interdiction was linked to the fact that those with bleeding disorders are at a higher risk of contracting HIV and transmitting it to others.
However, now authorities have said the main motivation is that hemophiliacs and other similar patients tend to be more vulnerable when being exposed to larger-sized needles.
The decision to allow homosexual men to donate blood, on the condition that they have been sexually abstinent throughout the last year, might sound unusual, but has actually been enforced previously by other nations, such as New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.
It was by closely monitoring the blood donation process from Australia that FDA researchers have come to the conclusion that the 12-month postponement was the most effective solution, resulting in no detectable risks for donors or recipients.
A total of 8 million units of blood were analyzed, and this massive amount of samples were all considered to be safe for future transfusions.
Therefore, the federal agency has revised its procedures, hoping this way to draw a larger number of blood donors in the future, yielding an extra 300,000 pints of blood per year.
A modern system of tracking blood supplies across the country has also been set up, so that blood availability or transfusion safety can be more closely surveyed.
Meanwhile, LGBT groups such as the National Gay Blood Drive have reacted to this supposedly less discriminatory policy when it comes to homosexual donors, suggesting that in fact it helps perpetuate the social stigma against people whose sexual orientation is different from the norm.
For instance, Congressman Jared Polis, co-chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus has recently declared that it seems outrageous to him that a married homosexual man committed to his long-term partner won’t be permitted to donate blood, whereas sexually promiscuous heterosexual men who have had multiple partners in the last 12 months will have this right, no questions asked.
Another source of vexation is the fact that even gay men who have used protection during sex won’t be allowed to be blood donors if less than a year has passed, whereas straight men have no such restrictions, regardless of how reckless their sexual behavior has been.
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