A study has revealed that by lifting its ban on gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) donating blood the US could save almost 2 million people.
Researchers estimated that ending the ban could see an additional 360,600 men donating 615,300 additional pints of blood each year and would increase the total annual blood supply in the US by 2 to 4 percent.
“The American Red Cross suggests that each blood donation has the potential to be used in life-saving procedures on three individuals,” said the Williams Institute’s Ayako Miyashita, one of the study’s authors. “Our estimates suggest that lifting the blood donation ban among MSM could be used to help save the lives of more than 1.8 million people.”
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently prohibits men who have had sex with men any time since 1977 from ever donating blood.
In recent years, both the UK and Canada have made changes to their laws, moving from an indefinite ban on MSM donations to a twelve-month and five-year deferral, respectively.
In May, the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) ended its restrictions on donating blood on the basis of sexual orientation. Instead, anyone – gay or straight – who has a new sexual partner will not be allowed to donate blood for six months, and anyone who has multiple partners will not be allowed to donate blood.
According to the report, if MSM who have not had sexual contact with another man in the past twelve months were permitted to donate, an estimated 185,800 additional men are likely to donate 317,000 additional pints of blood each year.
If MSM who have not had sexual contact with another man in the past five years were permitted to donate, it is estimated that 172,000 additional men would make an additional 293,400 blood donations.