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FDA Lifts Ban on Blood Donations from Men Who Have Had Sex with Men

The Food and Drug Administration has lifted the ban on blood donations from men who have engaged in sexual relations with another man. Now, in order to donate blood, a man will have had to have been abstinent for the period of one year prior to donation.

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This new policy is similar to the deferral period for a woman who has engaged in sexual activity with a man who had previously sexual activity with another man, or for someone who has traveled to a country where malaria is prevalent.

The Food and Drug Administration released final rules on Monday that would allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood if they have been celibate for one year. Under previous rules, men who have had sex with men are banned from donating indefinitely.

“Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the U.S. population. We will continue to actively conduct research in this area and further revise our policies as new data emerge," Dr. Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, wrote in a statement Monday.

The move partially rolls back a 1983 ban that has since been described as medically unwarranted. Efforts to eliminate that ban, which have crawled forward under the Obama administration, mark the biggest step in a decades-old debate on whether gay and bisexual men, who are at a higher risk for HIV/AIDS, can safely donate blood.

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