United States plans looser blood donation policy for gay men

A nurse draws a blood sample for an HIV test in September. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A nurse draws a blood sample for an HIV test in September. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Tuesday that it plans to change its blood donor policy recommendation to allow gay men to donate blood one year after their last sexual contact.

The FDA's proposed policy would replace its current stance, which backs indefinite deferral for this group as part of its policies aimed at protecting the nation's blood supplies. It said the move puts the policy in line with that of other men and women who are at increased risk for HIV infection.

The FDA said it will issue draft guidance on the policy, hopefully early in 2015. It would then review the comments and issue final guidance "as quickly as possible", Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA's Centre for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said during a press briefing.

An FDA advisory committee met earlier this month to discuss the issue around changing its policy for donations from men who have sex with men. Those discussions highlighted the effectiveness of new blood supply tests for HIV infections.

In November, an advisory committee to the US Department of Health and Human Services had recommended replacing the ban with the one-year deferral that the FDA is now proposing.

Marks said during the briefing that scientific evidence for a ban shorter than a year was not "compelling".