The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is mulling over lifting a 31-year-old ban on homosexual people of donating blood.
The ban was imposed on the gay community by the federal government in order to check the spread of the deadly Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
A FDA advisory panel has convened a two-day meeting over the sensitive issue, starting on Tuesday.
The move comes in the light of growing demand from the gay rights activists, medical groups and lawmakers for easing the ban, which they term as ‘outdated and discriminatory’.
Recently, an advisory group for the Department of Health and Human Services had recommended replacement of the ban with a 12-month deferral period, which would not allow male potential donors having same-sex contact over the previous year from giving blood.
The FDA, the blood donation regulating authority, will consider the recommendations while taking its decision.
There is huge concern among the government health officials over blood transfusion by the gay and bisexual men as they form the high risk group of contracting HIV and other transmissible infections like hepatitis B.
The federal agency has drafted a policy in 1983 that states: “Any man who has had sex with another man — even once — since 1977 is prohibited from donating blood.”
“FDA realizes that this policy leads to deferral of many healthy donors. However, FDA’s [current] policy minimizes even the small risk of getting infectious diseases such as HIV or hepatitis” through a blood transfusion,” the federal agency said on its website.
The demand for a revised US policy for blood transfusion has been gaining momentum for years as gay activists, medical groups, academicians and even some politicians have increasingly spoken in favor of lifting the age-old ban.