US experts say gay blood ban years away from being lifted

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Health regulators in the US are under pressure to remove restrictions that prevent gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

Experts on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have said that removing restrictions would require years of research to guarantee that blood supply would be safe.

The pressure comes following the Orlando massacre which left 49 people dead and a further 53 injured.

Members of the LGBT community tried to donate blood during the aftermath of the Orlando attack but were turned away because of their sexual history.

Females who have had sex with men who have had sex with men are also subject to the ban.

A lifetime ban from donating blood was placed on gay and bisexual in the 1980’s in fear of the AIDS epidemic. The ban was reduced to a 12 months at the end of last year.

More than a dozen Democrat lawmakers have called on the FDA to lift the ban altogether – arguing that it is wrong to discriminate on sexual orientation rather than sexual activity.

Mike Quigle, one of the democrats making moves towards the ban being lifted said: “We’re still in an inherently contradictory posture of straight men who are having unsafe sex with multiple partners being allowed to give blood. A gay man in a 30-year monogamous relationship, who practices safe sex, is not.”

The FDA maintains there is not enough scientific evidence to remove restrictions.

Tara Goodin, a spokesperson for the FDA said: “We empathise with those who might wish to donate but reiterate that at this time no one who needs blood is doing without it. That being said, the FDA is committed to continuing to re-evaluate its blood donor deferral policies as new scientific information becomes available.”

The FDA wants to determine whether reducing the waiting period will make the blood supply less, more or just as safe. This will take the FDA several years of research before the agency can consider actually relaxing its restrictions.

6 people have been infected with HIV through blood transfusions in the US in the last 12 years.

Blood is screened in the US for diseases but HIV cannot be detected if the blood is in an early exposure period.

Since the UK changed it’s outright ban to 12 months, the Department of Health reported that the blood stock is safer.