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The needle and the damage [lessened]

by Jeremy Hooper

Blood-DropIf the discriminatory ban on gay male blood donors were to be lifted, our nation's supply could go up to the tune of 219,000 pints a year. This and other findings can be found in a new Williams Institute report:

Effects of Lifting Blood and Organ Donation Bans on Men Who Have Sex with Men [Williams Institute (pdf)]



LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA‹ The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law
and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law issued a report today providing
the first published estimates of the impact of allowing men who have had sex
with men (MSM) to donate blood and organs. The report estimates that lifting
the ban could add 219,000 pints each year to the nation's blood supply, an
increase of 1.4%. Organ donations could increase by 2.9% annually, meaning
approximately 900 additional organ donations could occur each year.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to hold hearings on the
current ban on June 10 and 11.

Both the American Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks have
concluded that the current FDA ban on MSM blood donation is medically and
scientifically unwarranted. Study co-author and Williams Distinguished
Scholar Gary Gates states that, "Lifting restrictions on blood and organ
donation by MSM would help to alleviate frequent blood shortages in the US
and shorten the organ donation waiting list that currently exceeds 100,000

The current FDA policy, established in 1986, prohibits any man who reports
having had sex with another man since 1977 from ever donating blood. The
study estimates that this policy excludes nearly 7 million men from donating
blood. FDA regulations also prohibit men who have had sex with men in the
past five years from donating organs, excluding nearly 5 million men.
Using data from the American Red Cross and the US Department of Health and
Human Services regarding blood and organ donation patterns in the US
population, the study considers the impact of several scenarios for how the
existing policy might be changed. Completely lifting the ban would add an
estimated 219,000 pints to the blood supply and 903 organ donations each
year. A more limited revision of the policy, which would limit blood
donation by those men who have not had a male sex partner in the past year,
would yield an estimated 90,000 additional pints of blood and nearly 370
organ donations annually. Finally, changing the blood supply policy to be
the same as the organ donation policy (restricting donations by men who have
had sex with men in the last five years) would result in an additional
70,000 pints to the blood supply each year.

"The impact of lifting the ban on these donors will have an even great
impact on our health care system," says study co-author Naomi Goldberg, the
Peter J. Cooper Public Policy Fellow at the Williams Institute. "Each pint
of donated blood can be divided into three blood products, potentially
helping up to three different patients."

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