FDA regulations on who can donate blood discussed


In a perfect world, accidents don’t happen, there are no emergencies, and life-saving measures are never needed.

In today’s world, emergencies and the need for life-saving blood transfusions are a reality.

In an effort to protect the population from infectious disease, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates who can and cannot donate blood and plasma. Such restricted or deferred groups include people who use intravenous (IV) drugs, have received organ transplants, have recently traveled to or lived in certain foreign countries, have engaged in sex for money or drugs, and men who have had sex with other men, according to FDA’s Web site.

This last policy is referred to as MSM and has been in effect since 1982.

It is stated that men who have had sex with other men since 1977, and women who have had sex with a man who has had sex with another man are banned from donating, according to the FDA’s Web site.

“… They are saying they are not being discriminatory, [but] a woman who has had many partners can give blood, but gay men cannot, so they are,” said PRISM treasurer Ema Ulicevic.

The FDA policy depends on something called self-deferral, where donors are informed about the risks of spreading infectious diseases, asked a series of personal health questions and then can opt out of donating based on not qualifying, according to the FDA’s Web site.

The first AIDS test became available in 1985, and all donated blood is tested as part of the FDA’s regulations, said Ann McKanna, vice president of marketing and new business development for Heartland Blood Centers. FDA regulations are not laws but are enforced by issuing licenses to blood banks; a bank not in compliance would have its license removed, McKanna said.

As a result of better AIDS testing, Heartland Blood Centers think the lifetime deferral should be reconsidered as the new nucleic acid amplification test can detect the virus as early as 11 days after infection, McKanna said.

“We encourage those who oppose [the lifetime deferral] to contact the Center for Biological Research at the FDA,” she said.

In 2007 in DeKalb County, there were no cases of AIDS reported through April. In 2006, there was one case of AIDS reported, according to a report titled DeKalb County Community Analysis released by the DeKalb County Health Department.

The same analysis reported three cases of HIV in 2007 and eight in 2006, while also reporting 31 cases of HIV reported since July 1999 in DeKalb County. According to the analysis, the state of Illinois reported 304 cases of AIDS in 2007 through April, and 1,158 cases in 2006. Also, there were 1,058 cases of HIV in Illinois in 2007, 2,190 in 2006 and 16,835 cases were reported between July 1999 and April 2007. Information regarding sexual orientation of people reported as having HIV or AIDS was not available.