Is There A Medical Reason Gay Men Can't Donate Blood?

Science or prejudice?

In the wake of the tragic mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, hundreds of people lined up to donate blood. While inspirational, the sad irony was that many of the people receiving the blood weren't eligible to donate. 

In the early 1980s, as the AIDS epidemic spread, the FDA imposed a lifetime ban on blood donations from gay men. No matter if the man had protected sex with one partner, they were prohibited from donating. While it might have made sense at the time, the ban persisted long after the medical community had the technology to quickly and reliably test blood for HIV. 

The lifetime ban was finally lifted at the end of 2015, but there were still restrictions that limited the ability for healthy gay men to donate blood. 

According to the FDA's new guidelines, men must wait 12 months after the last time they've had sex with another man before they can donate blood. This puts them in the same waiting period as those who have received a blood transfusion or been exposed to another person's blood. 

The FDA states that extensive testing of blood samples showed that a 12-month waiting period had the lowest risk of transmitting blood-borne pathogens, and the risk of transmission was higher with shorter deferment periods. Still, some oppose the idea of making men wait 12 months after having sex if they haven't had a new partner or use protection. 

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