-- In a major shift, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that they will recommend changing the controversial policy that bans gay men from donating blood.
Currently, men who have had sex with other men since 1977 are banned from ever donating blood in the U.S. The ban dates back to 1983 and was started after doctors realized that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, could be transmitted through blood transfusions.
The FDA decided to advise changing the policy after a number of epidemiologic studies showed no adverse effects on blood supply with a one-year deferral, according to Dr. Peter Marks, the deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
Marks estimated that half of the men who currently can't donate blood due to the policy would become eligible to be blood donors.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the changed policy does not do enough to address discrimination.
In recent weeks, health organizations have increasingly pressured the FDA to recommend changing the policy.
In November, the Department of Health and Human Service’s Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability voted 16 to 2 to recommend allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood if they have abstained from sex with men for at least one year.
In an interview last month after Department of Health and Human Service’s announcement, Ryan Yezak, the founder of the National Gay Blood Drive, which has fought the ban with annual protests since 2013, said he was heartened by the changes but said there was more work to do.
“I think ... voting in favor of a one year deferral instead of lifetime ban is a huge step in the right direction,” Yezak told ABC in an earlier interview. “Our whole goal is eliminating sexual orientation from the blood donation process altogether."