The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed its blood donor deferral recommendations so that gay men will be able to donate blood.
FDA has updated its recommendations to the current standards given by new scientific evidence regarding the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus HIV through blood transfusions.
The FDA has a responsibility to maintain the safety of the blood and blood products at a high level of safety. The agency’s policies have to be backed by continuously updated scientific evidence. In response, the FDA will periodically revaluate its policies regarding blood donor deferral.
Up to this moment FDA’s approach of using the most updated scientific evidence associated with donor education materials, deferral questions and advances in testing HIV in donor’s blood has reduced the transmission of HIV through blood transfusion from 1 in 2,500 transfusions to 1 in 1.47 million.
If since 30 years ago and until now MSM (men who have sex with men) were banned for life from donating blood, the new FDA’s recommendations are limiting the ban to only 12 months. This means that MSM won’t be allowed to donate blood one year after their last sexual intercourse.
The recommendation comes to align with the deferral period used for other social groups which are at higher risk of HIV infection, such as those who have accidentally been exposed to another person’s blood or those who had recent blood transfusions.
The changes of deferral policies have been a result of epidemiologic data, combined with results from a variety of studies and experiences from other countries.
According to Peter Marks, the deputy director of the Center for Biologics Research and Evaluation of the FDA, the 12-month deferral is in accordance with the latest scientific evidence relevant to the population of the United States. Marks claims that the research on this issue is going to continue and the policies will be revised in accordance.
Other countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom have already had the 12-month deferrals applicable for MSM. When Australia has lifted the life ban and changed to the 12-month window, a national study has evaluated 8 million units of donated blood and no change in the risk of HIV infection was observed. Unfortunately data studying shorter windows of time is not available for now.
Besides the policy chance, the FDA in collaboration with the National heart, Lung and Blood Institute has implemented a national safety monitoring system for the national blood supply.
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