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The Food and Drug Administration announced plans today to change its policy banning gay and bisexual men from donating blood. NPR's Rob Stein has the details.
ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Any man who has ever had sex with another man even once since 1977 is banned for life from donating blood. The ban was put into place in the 1980s to protect people getting blood transfusions from getting AIDS. But this was before the AIDS virus had been discovered and before there was a test to screen blood for HIV, so advocates have been pushing to lift the prohibition for years. The FDA's Peter Marks says the agency has finally agreed to a change.
PETER MARKS: The agency is taking the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men from indefinite deferrals to one year since the last sexual contact with another man.
STEIN: Advocates say requiring one year of celibacy instead of a lifetime ban is a step in the right direction. But critics like Jason Cianciotto of the group Gay Men's Health Crisis say it's still unnecessary and discriminatory.
JASON CIANCIOTTO: The policy is harmful to gay and bisexual men because it perpetuates the stigma that HIV is a gay disease.
STEIN: But others worry that relaxing the policy isn't risk free. That's because even though all blood is tested for HIV, screening isn't perfect. Kenrad Nelson is an FDA advisor from Johns Hopkins.
KENRAD NELSON: I don't think we should accept any increase in the risk because we have enough blood.
STEIN: The FDA says it will start considering public comments early next year before making any changes final. Rob Stein, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.