A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services panel has begun to consider whether to overturn a long-standing ban against accepting blood donations from gay men.
On Thursday, the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability heard testimony from advocates who say that the lifetime ban is discriminatory and that technological advances have made it obsolete.
“The ban on gay and bisexual men … was enacted in 1985 and focuses on sexual orientation more than the risk and science itself,” said Caleb Laieski, a 19-year-old gay activist who has sued the Food and Drug Administration to overturn the ban.
Other countries have already dropped or modified the ban, and major medical and blood collection groups also oppose the ban.
Other industrialized countries, including Australia, Britain, France, Italy and Japan, have overturned similar bans on blood donation. Instead of barring gay and bisexual men for life, some of the countries allow them to donate blood if they have not had sex with another man in the last 12 months.
Laieski is not alone in opposing the U.S. ban. Last year, the American Medical Assn. voted to oppose the FDA policy, calling it “discriminatory and not based on sound science.”
In addition, three groups that supply nearly all of the nation’s blood — the American Red Cross, AABB and America’s Blood Centers — have long advocated ending the prohibition.