Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Should men who have ever had sex with men be allowed to give blood? No

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 27 February 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b318
  1. Jay P Brooks, professor of pathology
  1. 1University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas, USA
  1. brooksj{at}

    Bob Roehr (doi:10.1136/bmj.b311) says that the current ban on blood donations from gay men is not supported by evidence, but Jay P Brooks says that the risk of transmission of infection is too great

    New HIV infections in the US among men who have had sex with men (MSM) declined in the 1980s and 1990s but increased by 11% from 2001 to 2005, and MSM still account for most new HIV infections.1 Men who have had sex with men since 1977 have an HIV prevalence 60 times higher than the general population, 800 times higher than first time blood donors, and 8000 times higher than repeat blood donors.2

    The approach to minimising infections in the US all-volunteer blood supply is two pronged—the donor questionnaire and laboratory testing. Testing for HIV includes antibody testing as well as molecular methods (nucleic acid amplification testing).

    Window period

    Some people have asserted that laboratory testing is so good that there should be no deferral period for MSM.3 Although testing is better than it has ever been, infections can be transmitted during the window period—the …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription