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U.S. News

Cathedral City, CA, to FDA: Let Gay Men Give Blood

April 13, 2007

On Wednesday, the Cathedral City Council voted 4-0 in favor of a resolution asking the Food and Drug Administration to review its ban on blood donation by gay men. Council member Greg Pettis, who is gay, said he put the resolution on the agenda after learning that the City Council in Cleveland, Ohio, recently passed similar legislation.

According to FDA spokesperson Heidi Rebello, the ban has been in place since 1983. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are 60 times more likely to be HIV-positive than the general population, 200 times more likely to be infected than currently accepted first-time blood donors, and 2,000 times more likely than repeat donors, said Rebello. MSM continue to account for the largest number of new HIV infections in the United States, she added.

But David Brinkman, executive director of the Desert AIDS Project, said screening methods have improved since the early days of the epidemic, and the odds of HIV-infected blood reaching the blood supply are one in 2 million.

Testing methods have improved, acknowledged Debra Ahlers of the Community Blood Bank, which serves Palm Springs' Desert Regional Medical Center, Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, and John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio. However, there is still a window between the time a person is infected with HIV and when testing detects the infection, she said. It is "better to eliminate [the] risk than having the slightest possibility of a unit sliding through," she noted.

The ban is not meant to discriminate against gay men, since the question asked of prospective donors is whether they have had homosexual sex since 1977, not if they are gay, said Ahlers. Other persons banned from donating blood include those who spent more than three months in the United Kingdom from 1980-1986, a precaution against Mad Cow Disease, or those who have used IV drugs, she said.

Back to other news for April 2007

Adapted from:
Desert Sun (Palm Springs)
04.12.2007; Rasha Aly

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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