Following in Australia’s footsteps, the US Food and Drug Administration has ruled that gay men can donate blood 12 months after their last sexual contact with another man, overturning a 30-year ban aimed at preventing the transmission of HIV.
The agency on Monday said people with hemophilia and related blood clotting disorders would continue to be banned from donating blood due to potential harm they could suffer from large needles.
Previously they were banned due to an increased risk of transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The agency said it had worked with other government agencies and considered input from outside advisory bodies, and had “carefully examined the most recent available scientific evidence to support the current policy revision”.
The agency added that it had also put in place a safety monitoring system for the blood supply which it expected to provide “critical information” to help inform future FDA blood donor policies.
“Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the US population,” Dr Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s biologics division, said in a statement.
Several countries, including the UK and Australia, have 12-month deferrals.
During the change in Australia from an indefinite blood donor deferral policy, essentially a ban, to a 12-month deferral, studies evaluating more than eight million units of donated blood were performed using a national blood surveillance system, the FDA said.
“These published studies document no change in risk to the blood supply with use of the 12-month deferral,” the agency said.
“Similar data are not available for shorter deferral intervals.”
The agency said its policies to date had helped reduce HIV transmission rates from blood transfusions from one in 2500 to one in 1.47 million.