Created: April 07, 2020 06:47 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- Across the United States, there’s a been a call to those who can donate blood to do so however, not everyone can answer that call... at least not right away. There’s still a group of people that are under a restriction when it comes to donating blood.
“The ban started in the early to mid-1980s as a kind of reactive approach to the limited knowledge we had about HIV/AIDs in the scientific community.”
The ban that Randolph Hubach, Director of Oklahoma State University’s Sexual Health Research Lab, is talking about was placed by the Food and Drug Administration which said that men who have sex with men could not donate blood for life. Though he was a child at the time, Hubach remembers hearing about the ban and recalls that the primary focus among the LGBTQ+ community, at the time, was making sure their friends were staying safe. Though he was young when the ban went into place, he’d live through most of the ban since the life long ban was in effect until December of 2015.
From the time the life long ban was put into place until 2015, technology had advanced that machines used to screen blood could detect viruses much easier and with less blood being used. This is why in 2006, the AABB, Red Cross and ABC (America’s Blood Centers), in a joint statement, presented to the FDA scientific evidence that the life long ban is “unwarranted” and that any ban/restriction be “modified”.
In early April of 2020, the FDA reduced the restriction time from a year to just three months for gay and bisexual men to donate blood. As COVID-19 continues to impact the United States, as well as the rest of the world, there’s a growing fear that blood banks will suffer a shortage in supply and donors which is why the new restriction was put into place - a way to bring in new donors.
While the time in which a man who has sex with men can donate blood has been lessened, Hubach says that HIV/AIDs is no longer primarily found in men who have sex with men.
“If we’re looking at it from a risk reduction framework, we should be capturing people’s behavioral data versus who they’re in a relationship with.”
Though technology has advanced, no test is 100% perfect yet according to Dr. Justin Kreuter who works at Mayo Clinic and specializes in blood donations and transfusion medicine to name a few. Kreuter says that Mayo is continuing the year-long restriction because of the demand COVID-19 has put on its staff.
Doctor Justin Kreuter tells ABC 6 News that the staff is working “around the clock” to develop a therapy using plasma for those who are suffering from severe COVID-19 infections adding that in the future, they hope to implement the three-month restriction.
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