Ahead of World AIDS Day, The New York City Health Department called on the Food and Drug Administration to change its policy banning and restricting blood donations by gay and bisexual men.
Some see the FDA policy as discriminatory. The FDA says it is still reviewing requests to change its policy.
Allowing donations by gay and bisexual men would yield an estimated 360,600 potential donors and possibly boost the city's blood the supply by 615,300 pints each year, an increase of 2 to 4 percent, according to the Health Department. It could help save the lives of more than 1.8 million people, officials say.
“Replacing the FDA’s current ban with a screening process based on science, not stigma, will maintain the safety of the blood supply, increase donations and save lives,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. “The new screening process will allow thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of gay and bisexual men to give the life-saving gift of blood.”
The city Health Department suggests the FDA replace the ban and deferral policy with behavioral-risk assessments for donors, HIV screening for anyone who has had condomless sex, excluding nondoctor prescribed syringe users and continuing nucleic acid-based testing of donated blood.
Men who have sex with men had been banned from donating blood in the United States since 1985, in accordance with FDA regulations. A change made in 2015 allows gay or bisexual men to donate, provided it had been a year since their last sexual encounter.
Over the summer, the FDA said it was reconsidering lifting the ban entirely on blood donations from men who have sex with men, CNN reported, and the FDA issued a request for public comment. The website page has since been removed and the deferral period remains.
The FDA said it "will consider the comments received as the agency continues to re-evaluate the donor deferral policy."
An FDA spokeswoman told Metro via email the "FDA intends to interview blood donors to collect risk factor information associated with testing positive for a transfusion-transmissible infection.
"FDA also intends to collect information from donors with donations testing negative, as controls. The survey will be conducted under the Transfusion-Transmissible Infections Monitoring System (TTIMS) program."
The FDA maintains that it will update its blood donor deferral policies as scientific information becomes available.
England, Scotland and Wales lifted the lifetime ban on blood donation from gay and bisexual men in 2011 and implemented a 12 month deferral program.