SILVER SPRING, Md. — A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel Tuesday helped pave the way for the federal government to reverse its policy banning gay men from donating blood, a rule initially aimed at preventing transmission of HIV, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The group of outside advisers to the FDA — called the blood products advisory committee — said scientific testing of blood has become far more precise and is adequate to ensure that donated blood remains safe. Gay men would be allowed to give blood only if they hadn’t had sex with men in the past year, to account for any lag in the virus showing up in tests, the Journal article said.
The FDA is expected to issue national guidelines to blood banks in the near future, and while it doesn’t have to follow the advice of its advisory committees, it generally does so.
The committee didn’t take a formal vote, but most members endorsed the change, while encouraging more government and blood-bank vigilance over the frequency of HIV transmission through donations. Specifically, several committee members called on the FDA to require all U.S. blood banks to report AIDS cases that result from blood donations, the article said.
Modern blood tests have a “window period” that can be from none to 22 days in which a person recently exposed to HIV could test negative but still have HIV in his or her blood. Red Cross data shows that HIV infections sometimes still occur through blood transfusions: from 1999 through 2011 there were between one and 12 transmissions per year, the Journal reports.