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By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that it will change its policy on allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

Men who have sex with men will be able to become blood donors one year after their last “sexual conduct,” Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the FDA commissioner, said in a statement. The FDA will “take the necessary steps” to implement its new policy, she said.

Previously, such men were not allowed to donate blood because of the risk that doing so might fuel the spread of HIV.

The change in policy will treat gay and bisexual men the same way as other people who are at heightened risk for HIV, Hamburg said. Scientific and epidemiological studies have demonstrated that this shift on policy is justified, she added.

The FDA will “take the necessary steps” to implement its new policy, she said.

It is not clear whether this change will appease activists who have been pressing for the right to donate blood.

Hamburg also said that the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has already begun to implement a blood surveillance system to make sure the nation’s blood supply remains safe after the new policy is implemented.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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