News Release July 12, 2013
Bonfils Blood Center’s Statement regarding the National Gay Blood Drive
Denver, Colo (July 12, 2013) – Bonfils Blood Center respects the right of the participants and organizers of the National Gay Blood Drive to have their voices heard regarding the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) policy regarding the eligibility criteria for prospective male blood donors who have had sexual contact with another male.
As the main resource of blood products for the state of Colorado, Bonfils’ top priority is to provide a safe blood supply for patients in need of blood transfusions. Because blood products, like other pharmaceutical products, are used in treating a variety of medical conditions, blood centers are regulated by the FDA and we must abide by their blood donor eligibility guidelines.
The FDA has identified many high-risk behaviors that have a higher likelihood of compromising the safety of the blood supply – among those high-risk behaviors is male-to-male sex—and so the FDA’s current policy is to indefinitely defer those in this group from donating blood. The decision to defer men who engage in male to male sex was made by the FDA during the height of the HIV epidemic in the early 80’s and is based on the higher incidence rate of HIV among that population. The policy is not intended to be a value judgment of sexual preference or lifestyle but instead a precautionary measure in place that helps maintain the safety of the blood supply.
Bonfils Blood Center is a member of both AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks) and America’s Blood Centers, organizations that have submitted a joint statement to the FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee stating “that the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted” and recommended the deferral criteria “be modified and made comparable with criteria for other groups at increased risk for sexual transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections.”
We strongly support the use of data to determine scientifically-based deferral periods that are applied fairly and consistently among blood donors who engage in similar risk activities. Additionally we support the ongoing efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services and National Institutes of Health to fund research to evaluate deferral policies and prevent potential risks to the blood supply because patient safety is the highest priority.
2013 marks the 70th anniversary of Bonfils Blood Center’s presence in this community as one of Colorado’s top nonprofit healthcare organizations. Through seven decades of service, we’re proud to have become a trusted community resource and source of hope for those in their time of need as well as an outlet for our neighbors wanting to give back through blood, marrow and financial donations. In order to meet the needs of the nearly 200 healthcare facilities we serve and to be prepared for unexpected events Bonfils must collect more than 3,000 blood donations each week. For information about Bonfils Blood Center please call 303.366.2000 or visit www.bonfils.org or look for us on Facebook and Twitter.