FDA to axe ban that prevented gay and bisexual men from donating their sperm

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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The FDA is set to axe its ban on gay and bisexual men donating sperm, it has been revealed.

Under the current rule, men who have had sex with men within the last five years are blocked from anonymously donating sperm amid fears over HIV.

But the agency is now seeking to scrap this rule, and replace it with screening questions to assess a donor’s risk of having HIV or other infections.

If approved, the shift would increase the number of anonymous sperm donations available to those seeking fertility treatments. 

It would also affect donations of other tissues, such as heart valves and ligaments — officials say — also allowing these from gay and bisexual men.

The FDA is seeking to update its rules on anonymous sperm donations. The current rules were put in place in the 1980s over HIV-related concerns (stock image)

The Wall Street Journal, which revealed the news, said the FDA was planning to finalize its proposal by this summer. If approved by the White House, it could go into effect this summer.

It follows a similar move last year that allowed more gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

Women whose male partner is infertile or who don’t have a male partner rely on donated sperm to become pregnant.

About 86,000 infants are now born via IVF in the US every year, estimates suggest, accounting for about two percent of all births. Of these, figures suggest up to 60,000 are conceived using donated sperm.

Doctors expect the proportion of babies born via IVF in the US to continue to rise amid more people waiting until later life to get pregnant and the growing phenomenon of women using IVF to have children without a husband.

The FDA put its ban in place on gay and bisexual men anonymously donating sperm in the 1980s, amid concerns over the accuracy of HIV tests.

It was feared that tests would not pick up the virus, which could then be accidentally transmitted to someone else — as HIV can be spread via the semen.

But under the proposed rule change, doctors would instead ask donors a series of questions to screen them for HIV risk.

These have not been revealed, but it could follow the rule change around blood donations — with gay and bisexual men now permitted to donate blood providing they had not had sex with a new male sexual partner over the previous three months.

Those who say they have had new or multiple sexual partners over the previous three months and who have also had anal sex are told to wait three months before donating.

Other precautions are already in place for all donors, including that they must be tested at least twice, six months apart, for HIV.

The sperm can only be released after they have tested negative both times. 

Gay rights groups have previously slammed the rules around sperm donation as ‘based on outdated thinking’.

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