28 November 2014

FDA Panel To Discuss Lifting Ban On Blood Donations

One interesting irony in my transition came about two years into it.  There was a blood drive in the college in which I was teaching at the time.  I'd donated at other drives in other workplaces, so I had no qualms about doing so again.  Besides, colleagues were also giving theirs.

I knew there was a ban against gay men donating, but I didn't know what, if any, rules were in place for trans women on hormones.  The screening nurse didn't get that far:  One of the first questions she asked was whether I'd traveled abroad within, if I recall correctly, the previous year. 

I nodded, and she shook her head.  "I'm sorry, you can't donate.  She even showed me the relevant passage in the policy about donors.  

Oh well, I thought.  I haven't tried to donate since then; maybe I will one day, if I'm allowed.

What got me to thinking about that was hearing that a panel of FDA advisors is meeting next week to consider lifting the ban on blood donations from gay men.  The prohibition was enacted more than three decades ago, as AIDS outbreaks were rapidly turning into a worldwide epidemic.

The American Red Cross and America's Blood Centers, the organizations that sponsor most blood drives in the US, say that the ban has no scientific or medical rationale. 

The FDA is not required to follow the advisors' recommendations, and those in the know say that the ban probably won't be lifted.  However, the word on the street in Washington says that current policy would be amended so men could donate only if they haven't had sex with other men within the past year. 

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