Doctors split on new FDA policy of blood donation by gay men

Sermo poll provides physician insights regarding blood donation among gay and bisexual men

A new poll from Sermo, the leading global social media network exclusively for doctors, found that doctors are split on whether or not men who have sex with men should be required to be abstinent for a year before donating blood. The poll was in reaction to a change in U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy that removed the lifetime ban on blood donation for gay and bisexual men and replaced it with a new policy that prohibits men who have sex with men from donating blood only if they have had sex within twelve months.

The poll found that:

  • 52% of 1,523 doctors think a 12-month abstinence stipulation for men who have sex with men is necessary to ensure the safety of the nation’s blood supply.
  • 63% of 1,523 doctors think that people do not truly know if they have engaged in risky sexual behavior.
  • 78% of 3,217 doctors think the policy for men who have sex with men should be replaced completely by an in-depth screening for risky sexual behavior and drug use among all people donating blood.
  • 44% of 1,523 doctors think gay and bisexual men should be allowed to donate blood after shorter periods of abstinence than the 12 months stipulated in the new FDA policy.
  • Of those 674 who think that a shorter period of abstinence is okay, 30% said that no period of abstinence is necessary and 43% said the waiting period should be 6 months.
  • The results sparked a debate on Sermo with many doctors concerned about the safety and size of the nation’s blood supply.
Blood Donation Infographic

“It is clear that the physician community is still unsure about what steps are needed to ensure the safety of the nation’s blood supply while supporting equal rights,” said Dr. James Wilson, Sermo member and Ascel Bio infectious disease forecaster based out of the University of Nevada-Reno. “Personally, I believe the stringent processes in place in transfusion labs to ensure HIV is not accidentally introduced into the blood supply will suffice, and data from the United Kingdom and Australia demonstrate this. The ban on men who have sex with men donating blood unless they have been celibate for twelve months is unnecessary at this point.”

Dr. Wilson also said that he remains concerned that there is currently an increase in both men and women engaging in risky sexual behavior and hope that we can increase focus on that issue to mitigate the spread of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV.

Another doctor, an internal medicine specialist, posted in Sermo, “Male homosexuals remain the high risk group for HIV. Period. Sorry, but they should be the last in line to donate blood.”

This Sermo poll was administered via email to a random selection of members of the Sermo community in the United States. Participation was voluntary and results were kept anonymous. The margin of error is ±2.5 percent. It is calculated at the standard 95 percent confidence level. Therefore we can be 95 percent confident that the sample result reflects the active Sermo member base within the margin of error.

The question about whether or not the ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men within a year should be replaced completely by an in-depth screening for risky sexual behavior and drug use among people donating blood was also posted within the Sermo social network, accounting for the larger sample size (only one vote was counted per participant). The margin of error for that question is ±1.7 percent.

About Sermo

Sermo is the leading social network for physicians – the virtual doctors’ lounge and the home of medical crowdsourcing – where doctors anonymously share their true feelings about their profession and lives and talk ‘real world’ medicine. Sermo has more than 500,000 fully verified and licensed members and is now available for doctors in fifteen countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US. Founded in the US in 2005, Sermo’s mission is to revolutionize real world medicine and to unite physicians, providing them with a safe, private and trusted platform for free and open discussions. Sermo harnesses the collective wisdom of doctors, enabling medical crowdsourcing, knowledge sharing and thus the advancement of medicine.

Sermo is also the world’s largest healthcare professional polling and survey company with 1.6 million healthcare professional members in both the social network and a digital research network, spanning 80 countries. Sermo conducts 700,000 surveys a year.

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Media Contacts:
Randi Kahn, Public Relations Manager, Sermo;
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Cassidy Lawson, Racepoint Global;

Osnat Benshoshan, Chief Marketing Officer, Sermo