Oct 16, 2018 | Updated: 04:34 PM EDT

Gay and Bisexual Men in the U.S.May Be Allowed to Donate Blood

Nov 15, 2014 07:21 PM EST

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The vestiges of homophobia from the earlier times may have been felt lately when the government put to vote whether to uphold or lift a certain ban against accepting blood donations from gay and bisexual men. A federal panel voted Thursday in favor of partially lifting the 31-year ban.

The current ban in the U.S. applies to any potential male blood donor who has had sexual intercourse with another man since 1977. History has it that the said year was the start of the AIDS epidemic

The panel voted 16-2 in support of allowing men who have had sex with other men to donate blood under the condition that he has been on abstinence for one year, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The recommendation will be considered by a government advisory panel on Dec. 2. 

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the men in the 1977 ban were at an "increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that could be transmitted by transfusion."

"HIV tests currently in use are highly accurate, but still cannot detect HIV 100 per cent of the time," the FDA stated on its website. "It is estimated that the HIV risk from a unit of blood has been reduced to about 1 per 2 million in the USA, almost exclusively from so-called 'window' period donations.... For this reason, a person could test negative, even when they are actually HIV positive and infectious," the FDA said.

News reports said that that the Department of Health and Human Service's Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability examined data and heard testimony from critics of the lifetime ban, who said that the ban is "discriminatory and already unnecessary, since technological advances have made the risk infinitesimal in most cases."

Caleb Laieski, a 19-year-old gay activist said, "The ban on gay and bisexual men was enacted in 1985 and focuses on sexual orientation more than the risk and science itself."

"A recent study by the American Red Cross estimates that lifting the blood donation ban could be used to help save the lives of more than 1.8 million people," Laieski explained as he was one of those who clamor for the lifting of the ban.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the agency, said "the meeting provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA's deliberations." The FDA is not obliged to follow the panel's advice, however.

Some countries that have revised their policies to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood after a year or five years of abstinence from same-sex encounters include the U.K., Australia and Canada.

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