The FDA has revised its blood donor guidance for men who have sex with men, moving from indefinite deferral to 12 months since the last sexual contact with another man.
These updated recommendations better align the deferral period for MSM with the deferral period for other men and women at increased risk for HIV infection – such as those who had a recent blood transfusion or those who have been accidentally exposed to the blood of another individual.
Progress? Meh. I know it’s been said, many times, many ways, but there is no need to treat sex between men as inherently high risk. If given the choice between a male donor who has been having sex weekly with the same man for several years and a male donor who has sex with a different woman each month, guess whose blood I’ll take?
I understand there’s a bit more to testing donors (or donated blood) for HIV than just running the test, but I feel the FDA missed an opportunity missed to lift an unfair policy and possibly help prevent blood shortages.
A 2010 study by the University of California at Los Angeles found that lifting the long-standing ban could increase the total annual supply of donated blood by between 2 and 4 percent, adding as many as 615,000 pints per year. A shift from the full ban to a 12-month deferral that FDA opted for on Monday could add about 317,000 pints a year, the study found.
Could do, but will it? It would be nice to think that a certain number of men who were barred from giving blood will soon be sampling the juice and cookies at the local Red Cross. But after 30+ years of being told “Eeew! Go away.” I’m not so sanguine. And maybe blood banks will stick to the ban eternal. We’ll see.
How do the recommendations apply to transgender individuals?
The FDA’s recommendation to blood establishments is that in the context of the donor history questionnaire, male or female gender should be self-identified and self-reported for the purpose of blood donation.
So at least there’s that.