US officials refuse to lift gay blood ban

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not lift the lifetime ban preventing gay and bisexual men from giving blood.

After two days of deliberations, a panel of experts convened by the FDA failed to decide whether the ban should be scrapped.

“The meeting provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA’s deliberations,” spokeswoman Jennifer Rodriguez said.

The FDA did not indicate when it would make a decision with opinion split.

“The blood bank community has looked at the data and feels they can scientifically and medically support the change,” said panel member CSL Behring senior medical director Toby Simon.

But others worried that a relaxing the ban dating back to 1983 could increase risk of transmission during blood transfusions.

Campaigners have expressed disappointment.

“Our goal is to eliminate sexual orientation from the deferral process and instead base the decision on an individual risk assessment,” said Ryan James Yesak, founder of the US National Gay Blood Drive.

An advisory committee to the US Department of Health and Human Services recently recommended replacing the ban with a 12-month deferral period, a similar policy to parts of the UK, Australia and Japan.

At present, men who have sex with men (MSM) can only give blood in England, Wales and Scotland if they have not had sex for 12 months or more – and remain banned from donating for life in Northern Ireland.

Several politicians, most notably Tory MP Michael Fabricant and Green MP Caroline Lucas, have campaigned extensively at Westminster for reform of MSM blood donation rules.

The UK Department of Health has repeatedly refused to conduct a review of the policy.