Blood supply shortage sparks debate over whether donation guidelines impacting men who have sex with men should change

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) – An ongoing blood shortage in the United States has sparked a debate over whether it’s time to change donation guidelines to allow more people to be able to donate blood.

The rule in question is the one that says men who have sex with men must abstain, a requirement that began when there was no reliable test for HIV more than a century ago. 40 years.

Travis Ayers told TV9 that he would donate blood whenever he could when he was in high school.

“My high school had regular blood drives, and then there were community drives that I went to in between,” he said. “So I was a donor six times a year until I was sexually active and then I was fired.”

As a sexually active gay man, current FDA guidelines state that Ayers cannot donate blood unless he abstains from having sex with another man for 90 days. Ayers said he doesn’t believe these guidelines are fair to men who have sex with men.

“It’s not really a behavioral screening,” he added. “Heterosexual people might have even more risky behaviors and they’re not screened out as a result.”

Dr. Louis Katz, infectious disease specialist and Chief Medical Officer of ImpactLife, has devoted most of his career to the study of HIV and the treatment of HIV patients. He agreed with Ayers and said he did not believe the guidelines were scientifically justifiable.

Katz said guidelines like this have been in place since the 1980s due to the HIV epidemic. However, he explained that currently they can detect if someone has contracted HIV seven to ten days after exposure. He added that work was underway at the moment to modify these guidelines.

“The argument is that we should be able to identify men who have sex with men who are safe and men who have sex with men who are less safe,” he said. he declares.

According to Katz, this research started years ago but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the idea is to be able to ask very specific behavioral questions to identify men who have sex with men who are safe donors. He said this would change the deferral of donation from a deferral based on sexual identification to a deferral based on behavior.

“For example, if two men are in a mutually monogamous relationship, neither is infected with HIV, so they won’t be infected with HIV, so would they be safe donors?” Katz said.

Dr Katz said allowing men who have sex with men to donate blood would reduce the national blood shortage, but probably not solve it. He added that the directive change will most likely take a few more years. He said, however, there were signs of progress. Initially, when the HIV epidemic started, the exclusion for men who have sex with men was indefinite. It was then reduced to one year of abstention and, in 2020, to two months.

Even though the FDA’s top priority is the safety of the blood supply, Katz said, at the end of the day it’s all about fairness.

“It doesn’t hurt to have new donors, but beyond that, we believe that maintaining a safe and available blood supply must first be based on good science and fairness. , equality,” he commented.

Copyright 2022 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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