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Global debates continue on gay blood bans

Sun 13 Jun 2010 In: International News

America's National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is expressing 'anger and deep disappointment' over a recommendation the nation's gay blood donation ban should remain. The US Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability says the Food and Drug Administration should not lift its lifetime ban on blood donations from any man who has had sex with another man since 1977. It is estimated that 219,000 more pints of blood could be available annually if the blanket ban was lifted. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and nearly 50 other groups had issued a joint letter to the committee saying the ban was outdated and discriminatory. Executive director Rea Carey says the decision is outrageous, irresponsible and archaic. "We expect more out of this advisory committee and this administration than to uphold an unnecessarily discriminatory policy from another era." Carey says the most critical issue is to ensure that the blood supply is safe and abundant, which means maximising the potential donor pool and making sure all donors are screened appropriately and assessed based on actual behavioural risk, independent of their sexual orientation. "The committee's decision today not only leaves a discriminatory practice in place, it also puts lives at risk." The debate remains a global one: an article recently released in the Canadian Medical Association Journal called for the policy that bars gay men from giving blood in that nation to be eased. It was written by several leading HIV-AIDS researchers, who said gay men in long-term, monogamous relationships should be allowed to donate. In Australia, the Red Cross has changed its donation guidelines, allowing people who have been pierced, tattooed or had acupuncture to become donors six months after their procedure, rather than a year. The guidelines for gay men donating blood remain that they cannot be donors within one year of having sex with a man, something gay rights groups say is discriminatory and a double standard. In New Zealand, any man who has had protected or unprotected anal or oral sex with another man over the past five years is prohibited from giving blood. Rainbow Wellington believes the stance is discriminatory and took the issue to the Human Rights Commission. It went to mediation earlier this year, but the result was inconclusive. The case has been adjourned, but Rainbow Wellington says it is closely watching international developments.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Sunday, 13th June 2010 - 10:47am

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