FDA to recommend policy change to allow gay men to donate blood, with some restrictions

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that next year the agency will recommend lifting a ban on blood donations by gay men, though some restrictions will remain.

The policy change would allow men who have sex with men to donate blood one year after their last sexual contact, rather than face a lifetime deferral due to their sexual orientation, said a statement from FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. The FDA intends to issue a draft guidance recommending the change in policy in 2015.

“This recommended change is consistent with the recommendation of an independent expert advisory panel the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability, and will better align the deferral period with that of other men and women at increased risk for HIV infection,” Hamburg said in the statement.

Plans are already in the works to implement a national blood surveillance system that will help monitor the effect of such a policy change, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health's National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, according to the FDA.

Last summer, San Francisco stepped up efforts to join a national movement against a ban on gay men donating blood. Supervisor Scott Wiener in July introduced a resolution in support of overturning the ban, which gained the backing of Mayor Ed Lee.

The nonbinding resolution was passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 1.