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Head To Head

Should men who have ever had sex with men be allowed to give blood? Yes

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 27 February 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b311
  1. Bob Roehr, biomedical journalist
  1. 1Washington, DC
  1. bobroehr{at}

    Bob Roehr says that the current ban on blood donations from gay men is not supported by evidence, but Jay P Brooks (doi:10.1136/bmj.b318) says that the risk of transmission of infection is too great

    The lifetime ban on blood donation from men who have had sex with men (MSM) has no scientific justification, particularly when other high risk groups are not similarly excluded. Furthermore, the full costs of maintaining the ban often are not taken into account; they need to be tallied in making the risk-benefit decision.

    Marc Germain and colleagues at the Hema-Quebec blood service, Montreal, estimate that changing the deferral of MSM to 12 months from when the last sex took place with a new partner would result in the release of only one more unit of HIV positive blood among the 15 million units a year processed in the United States.1

    They have continued to refine this model, plugging in the effect of newer, more accurate screening tests and better epidemiological data on the changing face of the epidemic, which reduced the risk even further. Speaking from the audience during a panel discussion at the October annual meeting of the AABB, formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks, Dr Germain told the international conference, “If we relax …

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