I've followed the news about blood donor eligibility requirements for years, and it's about time for a separate thread on the subject. The subject has been discussed in the long-standing Give Blood! thread, it comes up each year in conjunction with the annual MacRumors Blood Drive, and it deserves to be recognized again as this year's MacRumors Blood Drive gets underway. By policy, MacRumors doesn't take positions on political and social issues, but encourages users to share their opinions. There are dozens of reasons that a person may be ruled ineligible to donate blood (see bloodbook.com or the rules posted at almost any collection center's website). Almost all of these restrictions are science- and statistics-based and noncontroversial. The controversy revolves around the question of deferrals or prohibitions on blood donations by men who have had sex with men (MSM). It's a topic of debate in many countries although a major focus has been on the U.S., where the FDA has jurisdiction over the rules that the American Red Cross, America's Blood Centers, the American Association of Blood Banks, and other donor centers must follow. Under the current FDA policy, the screening process involves a questionnaire that asks about sexual practices, not sexual orientation, but still seems to focus on certain risks (MSM) while ignoring others factors such as promiscuity/monogamy. The U.K. change in 2011 from a lifetime ban on MSM blood donors to a 1 year deferral, based on medical research, has reportedly produced no statistical increase in HIV-positive blood donations. That's evidence that the same would be true in the U.S. and Canada, but there is still resistance to change. A proposal in Canada to reduce the current lifetime ban on MSM donors to a 5-year deferral is being considered by Health Canada for possible implementation by summer 2013. Australia and other countries have also adopted 1 year deferral periods, with a mixture of rules among E.U. countries (see chart). It should be made clear that hospitals and other blood collection centers don't establish their own eligibility rules. They are subject to the FDA's rules. The 2006 joint statement by the American Red Cross, America's Blood Centers, and the American Association of Blood Banks still stands: It does not appear rational to broadly differentiate sexual transmission via male-to-male sexual activity from that via heterosexual activity on scientific grounds. Neither does it seem reasonable to extend this reasoning to other infectious agents. To many, this differentiation is unfair and discriminatory, resulting in negative attitudes to blood donor eligibility criteria, blood collection facilities and, in some cases, to cancellation of blood drives. We think FDA should consider that the continued requirement for a deferral standard seen as scientifically marginal and unfair or discriminatory by individuals with the identified characteristic may motivate them to actively ignore the prohibition and provide blood collection facilities with less accurate information. Source: aabb.org Despite frequent condemnation that the current policy is discriminatory and not based on science or statistics, the FDA's Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability has not changed its stance (see their June 2010 report), merely admitting that the policy is "suboptimal". Their next meeting is June 5-6, 2013 in Rockville Maryland. Protests against the policy have continued, including petitions and controversial efforts on some college campuses to prohibit blood drives until the FDA policy is changed. Advocacy sites such as Saving Lives With Helpful Guys have continued to make their case for blood donor eligibility reform that they say would increase the blood supply and reduce stigmatization without endangering the blood supply. Notable U.S. petitions: Change.org petition to the FDA: U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Allow gay/bisexual men to donate blood. (9700+ signatures in 1 year) Change.org petition to the United States President: REPEAL THE FDA MSM BLOOD BAN (6300+ signatures in 2 years) "We the People" (whitehouse.gov) petition started just 2 weeks ago: Re-Examine and Update the FDA's Blood Donation Guidelines Representative college protests: Blood drive ban at San Jose State University Blood drive ban at the University of Wyoming Blood drive ban at Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada) Update for 2018: There's a new MSM policy in the U.K.