American Medical Association opposes lifetime ban on gay men donating blood


The American Medical Association adopted a policy this week opposing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men.

The AMA policy also expresses support for the use of rational, scientifically based deferral periods that are fairly and consistently applied to blood donors.

“The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science,” said AMA board member Dr. William Kobler in a news release. “This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone.”

The AMA also adopted a new policy regarding HIV prevention.

Recent studies have confirmed that effective antiretroviral therapy can reduce HIV transmission by up to 96 percent. Previously, antiretroviral therapy for infected persons was delayed for years until CD4 cell counts dropped significantly and transmission occurred.

Although new NIH guidelines recommend immediate antiviral treatment, these guideline changes have not been widely publicized to physicians.

New policy adopted by the AMA supports programs to raise physician awareness of early treatment and “treatment as prevention” and the need to link newly positive persons to clinical care and partner services.

Other policies

The AMA also:

• Adopted a policy strongly opposing discrimination based on an individual’s genetic information. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was intended to protect individuals from genetic discrimination by health insurers and employers, but GINA did not address a number of areas in which genetic discrimination may still occur, and some people are not protected by GINA’s provisions. The newly adopted policy supports legislation that would provide robust and comprehensive protections against genetic discrimination and misuse of genetic information.

• Adopted a policy that encourages companies, laboratories, researchers and providers to publicly share data on genetic variants and the clinical significance of those variants through a system that assures patient and provider privacy.

• Adopted new policy recommending that traditional compounding pharmacies be subject to state board of pharmacy oversight. The AMA also supports FDA oversight and regulation of facilities that compound sterile drug products without receiving a prescription order prior to compounding and introducing these drugs into interstate commerce.

• Adopted a policy that recognizes obesity as a disease requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.

“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” said AMA board member Patrice Harris. “The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which are often linked to obesity.”

• Adopted a policy supporting a ban of the marketing of high stimulant/caffeine drinks to adolescents under the age of 18.

“Energy drinks contain massive and excessive amounts of caffeine that may lead to a host of health problems in young people, including heart problems, and banning companies from marketing these products to adolescents is a common sense action that we can take to protect the health of American kids,” said AMA board member Alexander Ding.

• Adopted a policy recognizing potential risks of prolonged sitting and encouraging employers, employees and others to make available alternatives to sitting, such as standing workstations and isometric balls.

• Adopted a policy that supports the exemption of sunscreen from over-the-counter medication possession bans in schools and encourages all schools to allow students to possess sunscreen at school without restriction.