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Others say there is no reason to change the policy.

“Nothing has changed with the medical situation, which is that men who have sex with men are at an extremely elevated risk of contracting HIV” and “this is a serious risk for the blood supply,” said Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council. The issue is not about sexual orientation; it’s about health, he said.

Groups representing hemophiliacs and other recipients of blood and plasma products say that “blood safety” must be the priority in any policy change on donations.

The lifetime-deferral requirement for MSM “is an important issue that needs consideration,” said Kimberly Haugstad, executive director of the Hemophilia Federation of America. “We also believe further research and studies are needed” to ensure that decisions “are made based on the safety of patients,” she said.

Studies have consistently found that even if MSM who had not had sex with a man in a year were permitted to donate, there would be more HIV-infected blood units in the system. In one federal study, this translated into additional 2,700 HIV-infected units in a year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that if MSM policies were changed, there would be “small, but not zero,” risks for more HIV-infected blood units, and “little gain, in terms of additional donations.”

Permanent deferral of MSM “therefore continues to be endorsed as the default position based on the principle of risk reduction to ‘as low as reasonably achievable,’” WHO said in its 2012 guidelines on blood donation.

In the U.S., the rate of HIV infections by blood transfusion has become rare — about one in 1.5 million — because of the numerous rules on blood donation and improved testing of the blood supply, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.