US Red Cross recommends lift to gay blood donation ban
Danny McCoy | March 23, 2006
WASHINGTON D.C.— After more than a decade of banning blood donation from men who have sex with other men, the American Red Cross has announced they support legalizing donations from gay men provided they�ve gone at least a year without gay sex.
As reported Friday by the Associated Press, the Red Cross' new position has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to consider a risk assessment that would take three to six months, and may lead to a reversal of the 16-year-old ban.
That ban prevents any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from ever donating blood. With support from the Red Cross, the ban was reaffirmed in 2000.
A spokesman for the Red Cross said they made the decision to recommend a lift to the ban since last summer, though this is the first time an official statement has been made. The recommendation was made at an FDA workshop on whether better HIV tests made the ban unnecessary.
Based in Washington D.C., the non-profit Red Cross is responsible for collecting roughly 45-percent of the nation�s blood supply, according to AP. A spokesman for the Red Cross called the ban �unfair and discriminatory� in a statement on the American Association of Blood Banks Web site.
�It does not appear rational to treat gay sex differently from straight sex,� the statement continued, noting that in some cases, the ban led to the cancellation of blood drives.
Gay rights activists have been protesting the ban for years, with much of the anger directed at the Red Cross, which according to published reports made $2.1 billion in sales of blood and blood products in 2004.
�Having sex with a man does not put you at high risk,� John Givner, director of the HIV project at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a New York-based gay rights group, told the AP in a telephone interview in 2005. �Having unprotected anal or vaginal sex does.�
The ban was first imposed based on early FDA evidence that suggested one or more units of HIV-positive blood a year could go undetected through testing and infect recipients. Dr. Louis Katz, a member of the agency's Blood Products Advisory Committee, said recent changes in blood handling and testing may have reduced risks. – Issued by Gay Link Content
Press release regarding blood donation by the SA Joint Working Group