US: Panel recommends ‘relaxation’ of gay blood ban

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A key advisory committee has agreed that regulations banning gay men from donating blood should be slightly relaxed.

In the US at present, Federal Drug Administration rules mean that all men who have sex with men are currently banned from giving blood for life.

However, critics say the practice is discriminatory and does not reflect modern screening practices, and the FDA has long faced calls to introduce less discriminatory rules.

The Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability met to discuss the issue yesterday, and for the first time voted 16-2 in favour of recommending that the rules be relaxed, in favour of a 12 month ban.

The recommendations are not binding, but the FDA is likely to take them into account when it reviews its blood policy.

The committee’s chairman Jay Menitove told Businessweek: “The system, in my mind, has been very successful, in part, I believe, because the public has trust in the system and the decisions we make.

“To maintain that trust and compliance on the part of the public, it is time to modernize.”

In England, Wales and Scotland, men who have sex with men face a 12 month ban from giving blood. Northern Ireland still maintains a lifetime ban, which health minister Jim Wells has no plans to lift.

Tory MP Michael Fabricant has recently called on Parliament to scrap “illogical” blood laws in the UK altogether.