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FDA Lifts Ban on Blood Donations From Gay Men -- With a Catch

By Kerry Longobucco.
The Food and Drug Administration (or FDA) is lifting a lifetime ban that bars gay and bisexual men from donating blood -- but that policy change comes with a catch. Some local officials are calling this a step backward for gay rights.

Gay and bisexual men will now be allowed to give blood -- under the condition that they abstain from sex for a full year.

Members of the LGBT community, and the AIDS community, say they're outraged at the FDA's new policy.

"You can be somebody who is young and heterosexual and you can sleep with numerous partners, and you can donate blood without anybody questioning you at all," John Barry, executive director of the Southern Tier AIDS Program, said. "But if you're a gay man who's married, and in a monogamous relationship, you're not eligible to donate."

The 32-year-ban was put in place early in the AIDS crisis, due to a fear that men who had sex with other men could infect others through transfusions.

The FDA says its decision is "backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply." The American Medical Association argued the policy was no longer supported by science, given advances in HIV testing.

Modern testing available today can detect the HIV virus within 28 days of exposure -- and some local officials say there's no science to support the restriction they're calling homophobic and discriminatory.

"It just seems to be an absurd policy that will either force people to lie," Dara Silberstein, executive director of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Binghamton University, said. "Or it will force people to stop practicing their sexuality."

The one-year abstinence rule matches policies in other countries, including Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom.

This policy change comes six months after the Supreme Court's historic decision that gave same-sex couples in the United States the right to marry. Barry says this policy is a sad way to end a year that was incredible progressive for the gay community.