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Background

The deferral of men who have sex with men (MSM) from blood donation is controversial worldwide, with national policies varying from no explicit deferral to permanent deferral. This study assesses whether MSM have donated and would be interested in donating if the US exclusion policy were removed and who would be eligible to donate if the policy were modified to a temporary or lower-risk deferral criterion.

Study Design and Methods

Questions about previous blood donation and interest in future donation were added to the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance survey questionnaire, which periodically gathers risk behavior information from MSM in San Francisco.

Results

Overall, 77.3% of 475 MSM respondents expressed interest in donating. By lower-risk criteria, 10.1% had no sexual contact in the past 6 months (2.3% in the past 12 months) and 1.9% had only lower-risk sexual contact in the past 6 months (1.5% in the past 12 months). Of the 23.4% who answered yes to having donated in the past, at least 25.2% did not comply with the current deferral of no male–male sex since 1977.

Conclusion

The majority of MSM are interested in donating blood. Depending on how the policy would be changed (i.e., either a temporary or a behavior-based deferral criterion), substantial numbers of MSM would be eligible.