US retains ban on gay blood

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The American government has said there will be no change to the policy that bans any man who has ever had sex with another man from giving blood for life.

Last year the Red Cross and US blood donation centres protested that the lifetime ban for any male who had same-sex contact before 1977 was outdated.

Yesterday the federal Food and Drug Administration said on a statement on its website that the policy, dating from 1983, remains in force.

The Red Cross had called the ban “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”

“I am disappointed, I must confess,” Dr. Celso Bianco, executive vice president of America’s Blood Centres, told AP.

The Red Cross, ABC and others argue that modern HIV testing makes a lifetime ban unnecessary and they are turning away healthy donors and discriminating against gay men.

The FDA said it might consider changing its policy in the future, but added that HIV tests are not 100% accurate.

A similar ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men is in place in the UK.

A official statement posted on the Prime Minister’s website says:

“The self-exclusion criterion concerning gay men has been reached through a close analysis of the epidemiology of confirmed HIV and Hepatitis B positive tests among blood samples from people donating blood at United Kingdom Blood Service sessions.

“Although safer sex campaigns have had an impact, it is still considered that the risk of gay men being infected with HIV remains sufficiently high to include the criterion that they should not donate blood.”

The ban on gay and bisexual men has been removed in many countries, among them Italy, Sweden, South Africa, Portugal and Spain.