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AMA Opposes Gay Blood Ban


Will American Medical Association's decision move FDA to drop three-decade ban?

The American Psychiatric Association's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders was a watershed moment for gay rights. The decades-long flood of statements against "conversion therapy" from the APA and other medical groups, including the American Medical Association, slowly helped raise public awareness of the dangerous practice, eventually weakening the "ex-gay" movement to the point that one of the leading "ex-gay groups," Exodus International, has apologized and closed up shop. One can only hope that the American Medical Association's has equally profound success with a vote this week to oppose the FDA's ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men.

During a board meeting on Tuesday, the AMA decided it was high time the FDA lift its 1983 ban, which was put in place at the height of the AIDS panic. Activists have campaigned against the prohibitions ever since, but despite their protests and 30-years worth of advances in HIV screening, the FDA and other blood drive organizers, especially the Red Cross, have kept their restrictions in place. But those restrictions are "not based on sound science," says Dr. William Kobler, an elected member of the American Medical Association's Board of Trustees.

"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science," AMA board member Dr. William Kobler said in a statement. "This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone."

To reconcile the reality of MSM infection -- 61% of new infections are among men who have sex with men, according to the FDA -- with existing technologies, the AMA wants donated blood to be screened individually. Men who have sex with men deserve to be seen as people, not a bulk "at risk" group.

The AMA is prescribing humanity here. It's not a novel approach, no, but it's just crazy enough to work.

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Andrew Belonsky