Feds officially ease blood donation ban for gay men

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The Obama administration has finalized its first change to the ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men in 30 years, though LGBT advocates argue the new policies are still discriminatory.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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.

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“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.

A leading HIV/AIDS advocacy group, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, has said the government’s decision to keep the one-year ban — which they say is de facto a lifetime ban, remains “offensive and harmful.”

Lawmakers like Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinOvernight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back Dem hopeful that Congress will eliminate tax break for investment fund managers Congress should stop government hacking and protect the Fourth Amendment MORE (D-Wis.), longtime advocates for the policy change, have accused the FDA of singling out gay men without justification.

“A time-based deferral focusing solely on men who have sex with men is still discriminatory and fails to exclude donors based on actual risk factors,” Quigley wrote in a statement last winter when the draft rules were issued.