Report: Lift donation bans on gay men to increase total blood supply

If the Food and Drug Administration was to reverse its policy prohibiting blood donation by men who’ve had sex with men, the total annual blood supply could increase by 2 to 4 percent, according to a new report.

The FDA’s ban prohibits any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from ever donating blood.

The Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA Law, used population data to estimate the size of the banned population and blood donation patterns in the U.S to predict the impact of lifting the ban.

The analysis found that lifting the ban could add 345,400 to 615,300 pints of blood to the total blood supply each year.

In recent years, both the U.K. and Canada have made changes to their laws, shifting from a ban to a 12-month and 5-year deferral, respectively, according to the report.

The American Red Cross, American Association of Blood Banks and America’s Blood Centers have called for a modification of the lifetime deferral and consideration of a 12-month deferral, according to the report.

The Williams Institute analysis looked at the potential impact on the nation’s blood supply in three scenarios: lifting the ban entirely, a 12-month deferral and a 5-year deferral.

The report found lifting the donation ban entirely would result in an additional 4.3 million eligible donors. Of those, they estimate 360,600 men would be likely to donate, generating an additional 615,300 pints of blood.

Under a 12-month deferral, an additional 2.2 million men would be eligible to donate blood. About 186,000 would be likely to donate, resulting in an additional 317,000 pints of blood, according to the report.

And under a 5-year deferral, an additional 2 million men would be eligible. Of those, 172,000 men would be likely to donate, adding 293,000 pints of blood to the total supply, according to the report.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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