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SF supervisor wants FDA to drop ban on gay blood donations

Donors give blood in Rutland, Vt., Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener will introduce a resolution at Tuesday afternoon's Board of Supervisors meeting asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to end its ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

The FDA prohibits any man who has had sexual intercourse with a man since 1977 from donating blood. The agency began to restrict gay and bisexual men from making blood donations in 1983 because of the AIDS epidemic.

Wiener called the rule "archaic" and said it doesn't take into account advances in health, awareness and screening practices.

"While it's important to have guidelines ensuring that blood donors are not engaging in risky behaviors, being gay or bisexual should not disqualify people," Wiener said in a statement. "No one should be treated differently because of a difference in sexual orientation."

The FDA claims it's not possible to control HIV risk through blood testing alone, as there is still an HIV risk of about one per 2 million units of blood, mostly from blood donated during the "window period" shortly after infection when the HIV virus isn't detected in tests, according to the FDA website.

Thus, the FDA maintains it must continue to screen donors based on risk behavior, and men having sex with men still fits into the risk category, according to the agency.

But with 41,000 blood donations needed every day in the U.S. to keep up with need, Wiener believes the FDA can't afford to turn away donations. Twenty-one countries have changed their policies to allow gay men to donate blood as of last year, according to Wiener's office.

On Friday, Wiener participated in the National Gay Blood Drive to raise awareness about the issue.

Since Wiener, as a gay man, is banned from donating blood, he wrote a note to the FDA, which he posted on his Facebook page: "Please let me donate blood so I can save lives."

Wiener will introduce his resolution when the Board of Supervisors meets at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Related Topics:
health lgbt FDA blood drive HIV AIDS San Francisco
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