A review from researchers at Case Western Reserve University suggests that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy of deferring donors who are or have been men who have sex with men (MSM) inappropriately conflates group membership with individual HIV risk. Published in the journal Transfusion Medicine Reviews, the researchers assessed donor education materials collected from 52 community blood centers and hospital blood banks to evaluate definitions of HIV/AIDS risk behaviors and associated terms. They found that the majority of materials were based on the AABB’s “Making Your Blood Donation Safe” document, and did not clearly define “risky sexual behavior.” Furthermore, the analysis demonstrated that the term “sexual contact” was broadly defined and not clearly linked to specific risk behaviors. By excluding all MSM (even men who had sex with another man only one time) from donation, individuals who may be at very low risk of HIV are implicitly constructed as HIV positive. The authors conclude the MSM exclusion may be an inappropriate deferral policy. FDA guidelines have been highly contested in the past decade, but remain unchanged.
1. Cascio MA, Yomtovian R. Sex, risk, and education in donor educational materials: review and critique. Transfus Med Rev 2013;27: 50-5.