BY ROB SALERNO – The US government is finally considering ending the gay blood-donor ban that has been in place since the HIV epidemic hit the blood supply in the 1980s.
Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services decided to uphold the ban, but it recently announced that it would reconsider its decision pending resolution of four areas of concern: 1) how donor risk factors relate to transmissable disease, 2) how blood not cleared for use is sometimes accidentally released, 3) whether or not donors actually understand the current criteria and whether or not men who have sex with men would comply with modified criteria (ie, a six-month deferral period), and 4) if an alternative screening strategy, such as pre/post donation disease testing for MSM would maintain blood safety.
HHS has also announced that it will conduct research into these problems.
US senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry has been pushing HHS to update the policy for years. This latest announcement follows one of his requests for information.
Earlier this year, Canadian Blood Services announced that it, too, wanted to end or modify the ban but was awaiting further scientifiic research and approval from Health Canada.