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Feds, Worried About AIDS, Say Men Who Had Gay Sex Shouldn’t Give Blood

September 5, 1985

ATLANTA (AP) _ In revised guidelines aimed at eliminating AIDS virus from the blood supply, federal health officials recommended Thursday that any man who has had sex with another man even once in the last eight years refrain from donating blood.

The national Centers for Disease Control has for years considered homosexual or bisexual men with multiple sexual partners to be at increased risk for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

But the latest recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration, published by the Atlanta-based CDC, applies even to men ″who may have had only a single contact, and who do not consider themselves homosexual or bisexual.″

The FDA stopped short of saying that any man who has ever had gay sex is at increased risk for AIDS. ″But we would certainly consider them able to be carriers,″ said Susan Cruzan, a spokeswoman for the FDA.

AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is an affliction in which the body’s immune system becomes unable to resist disease. It is believed to be caused by an unusual virus discovered in France and the United States.

AIDS is most likely to strike homosexuals, abusers of injectable drugs and hemophiliacs. It can apparently be spread by sexual contact, contaminated needles and blood transfusions, but not by casual contact. It has struck more than 12,000 people in the United States since 1979, and more than half of them have died.

In March 1983, the federal government advised blood collection centers nationwide to ask potential donors at high risk for AIDS to refrain from donating blood. Homosexual or bisexual men make up about 73 percent of all reported AIDS victims, according to the CDC.

Last March, with the development of a screening test for the virus which causes AIDS, blood centers began testing all donations.

″The low frequency″ of positive tests shows that efforts to keep AIDS out of the blood supply have worked, the FDA said. Only about two in every 1,000 donated units of blood have tested positive, and those units are destroyed.

But interviews with donors of AIDS virus-positive blood showed ″homosexual contact″ to be ″the most common risk factor identified,″ the FDA reported.

So the FDA reworked its recommendations to blood centers, to include asking any man not to give blood if he has has had sex with another man since 1977 - the year preceding the oldest AIDS virus found in donated blood serum, Ms. Cruzan said.

The revised recommendation ″is intended to inform persons who may have been infected with HTLV-III (AIDS virus) through occasional or intermittent homosexual activity that they should not donate blood or plasma, even if they do not believe they are at risk of having been infected,″ the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

American Red Cross officials announced that they will issue the revised guidelines to their blood centers next week.

Federal health officials have ″no quantitative numbers″ on how many AIDS victims may have gotten the disease through one or very few homosexual contacts, said CDC spokesman Bob Alden.

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