Despite a recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA this week failed to commit to lifting the current lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.
The 17-member FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee deliberated whether to lessen the prohibition to 12 months of celibacy before men who have sex with men can donate, a policy similar to ones in England, Australia and Japan.
“The blood bank community has looked at the data and feels they can scientifically and medically support the change,” said one panel member, CSL Behring senior medical director Toby Simon.
Other panel members disagreed: “Even if this leads to one or two cases of HIV infection, that’s not acceptable.” said Kenrad Nelson, a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University.
While the 17-member panel assembled by the FDA failed to reach any consensus, a spokeswoman said the meeting “provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA’s deliberations.”
Medical experts, blood banks and even hemophilia organizations endorse changing the lifetime ban, which activists call outdated, scientifically unsound and discriminatory.
“Our goal is to eliminate sexual orientation from the deferral process and instead base the decision on an individual risk assessment,” said Ryan James Yesak, founder of the US National Gay Blood Drive.