November 14, 2014

Correction appended, Nov. 14

A federal panel voted Thursday in favor of partially lifting a 31-year ban against accepting blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

The current ban in the U.S. applies to any potential male blood donor who has had sex with another man since 1977, the start of the country’s AIDS epidemic. The FDA website states that these men are at an “increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.” The Department of Health and Human Service’s Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability examined data and heard testimony on Thursday from critics of the lifetime ban, who say it is discriminatory and now unnecessary, since technological advances have made the risk infinitesimal in most cases.

The panel then voted 16-2 in support of allowing men who have had sex with other men to give blood after being abstinent for one year, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The FDA is not obliged to follow the panel’s advice but Jennifer Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the agency, said “the meeting provided valuable information and perspectives that will help inform the FDA’s deliberations.”

Other countries, including the U.K., Australia and Canada, have revised their policies to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood after a year or five years of abstinence from same-sex encounters.

[Businessweek]

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the organization that backed lifting the blood donor ban. It is a Department of Health and Human Services panel.

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