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News: World

Thu 25 Sep, 2014
By Robert Ingham

Such an increase in the blood supply could save up to 1.8 million lives

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Pressure Grows to Allow Gay & Bi Men to Donate Blood

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The US’s blood supply could see a significant increase if long-standing donor policies barring gay and bisexual men were eliminated, a new study says.

The study from a California institute projected that if the blood donor policy for gay and bisexual men was eliminated, these men could provide an extra 615,300 pints of blood a year.

Such an increase in the blood supply could save up to 1.8 million lives, according to extrapolations made by study leaders Ayako Miyashita and Gary J. Gates of the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at the University of California School of Law in Los Angeles.

If the donor policy was kept but changed — permitting blood donations after one year or five years of sexual abstinence — men who have sex with men (MSM) could donate around 300,000 pints a year, respectively, the study said. About 9.2 million Americans currently donate about 15.7 million pints of blood per year, according to the American Red Cross.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Food and Drug Administration are under pressure to change their decades-old policy of not permitting MSM to donate blood if they have had sex with a man since 1977.

The donor policy was implemented in the early 1980s after thousands of hemophiliacs and other transfusion patients began contracting and dying of AIDS from infected blood donations.

Engaging in anal sex continues to be a high-risk activity for contracting HIV, and sexually active gay men accounted for 63 percent of new HIV infections in the U.S., the federal government said this year.

Gay rights groups and blood banks say new testing methods can ensure that most infected donations are caught and discarded, and other countries have changed their blood donor policies to permit MSM to give blood after lengthy periods of sexual abstinence.

Although HIV infection via blood transfusion is now very rare — one case in 1.5 million transfusions in the U.S. — researchers note that increasing the number of gay male donors will lead to a “small, but not zero” increase in HIV-infected blood donations.

Hemophiliacs and other recipients of blood donations support changing the MSM policy but say any changes must be based on science — not politics — and must uphold the safety of the blood supply.

Source: Washington Times

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