The Vermont House voted this week to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to lift its lifetime ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.
The resolution calls for a one-year period when blood should not be given after sexual contact with a man, rather than the lifetime ban presently in place.
[Supporters] of the House resolution, which passed 129-2, say the British government and some international health organizations have changed their standards on the question.
The blood ban, sparked by the HIV/AIDS crisis, was enacted in 1986. Under the current policy any man that has had sex with another man since 1977, no matter how infrequently or safely, is permanently barred from donating.
However, supporters of lifting the ban point out that because testing protocols have vastly improved since that time, the ban is no longer scientifically or medically supported.
The chief criticism of the ban is that it singles gay men out as high risk without taking into account their sexual history (they may, for instance, have always practiced safe sex) and without asking for the same standard from heterosexuals who may have had multiple partners and not practiced safe sex. In effect,the ban hinges on sexuality and not risk status.
Last year the British Government retired the UK’s lifetime donation ban, settling instead for a five-year deferral period for men who have sex with other men. While welcomed as a step in the right direction, the five-year deferral period was criticized by campaigners as still discriminatory.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recently said that it would re-examine the U.S. blood donation ban.
Canadian Blood Services and its counterpart Héma Québec are also said to be reconsidering their bans.