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U.S. Panel Seeks "Surveillance" System for Gay Blood Donors

December 9, 2013

This article was reported by the Washington Times.

The Washington Times reported that a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advisory panel recently voted to request that the government set up a surveillance system before the panel can consider changing the blood donation policy to allow donations from men who have sex with men (MSM).

The current policy on blood transfusion specifies an in-depth screening process that requires donors to answer detailed questions on various issues, including foreign travel, health, new tattoos, and sexual behaviors. Any man who reports sex with another man since 1977 is banned from donating blood. Gay rights groups and other advocates are challenging this policy as discriminatory, as all donated blood is tested and new tests are very good at detecting HIV. Also, they contend others who participate in high-risk behaviors are deferred for only 12 months.

The panel of medical professionals wants HHS to establish and fund a comprehensive, nationally representative monitoring system on "transfusion-transmissible infections." The panel concentrated specifically on the following transfusion-transmissible infections: HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and a virus that causes a type of leukemia. The panel decided to wait for final research findings in 2014. In 2010, the same panel voted to retain the lifetime ban on MSM blood donation, but requested new research to assist them in the policy change.

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