Devices & Diagnostics

Wow of the Week: Blood donations from gay men could save millions of lives

If the FDA lifted its ban on gay men donating blood, hundreds of thousands of pints would be available every year for patients in need of transfusions, which in turn could save 1.8 million lives per year, according to a new study. The FDA enacted the ban back in 1983, after discovering HIV was being […]

If the FDA lifted its ban on gay men donating blood, hundreds of thousands of pints would be available every year for patients in need of transfusions, which in turn could save 1.8 million lives per year, according to a new study.

The FDA enacted the ban back in 1983, after discovering HIV was being transmitted through transfusions. But that was during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and since then mainstream behavior and understanding has changed dramatically.

If the ban were lifted in the U.S., approximately 615,300 pints of blood would become available every year, according to the study by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law at UCLA. Even if donations were limited to gay men who have not had sex within a year, some 317,000 pints of blood would be available. A five-year policy would result in an extra 300,000 pints.

The UK permits gay men to donate blood if they have not had a sexual partner in a year. Canada has a five-year policy.

“The American Red Cross suggests that each blood donation has the potential to be used in life-saving procedures on three individuals,” said study co-author Ayako Miyashita, Reuters reported. “Our estimates suggest that lifting the blood donation ban … could be used to help save the lives of more than 1.8 million people.”

The AMA, along with the American Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks, have all called on the FDA to end the band, calling it “discriminatory and not based on sound science.”

An FDA spokeswoman told Reuters the agency would continue to re-evaluate it policies, but it has no plans to ease the ban until further study shows the risk will not increase for patients receiving transfusions.

The study looked at data collected in 2008, 2010 and 2012 from the General Social Survey,  which was conducted by researchers at the  University of Chicago. It had a sampling error of plus or minus one percent and relied on data from the American Red Cross.

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