Potential blood donors will undergo closer questioning of past behavior in screening for the AIDS virus under a new policy that also lifts the ban on donations from Haitians, the federal Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday.
Blood centers already screen for high-risk behavior, including homosexual intercourse and intravenous drug use. New regulations place more emphasis on high-risk heterosexual contact and on oral questioning in terminology that donors will understand and that avoids stereotype answers.
Prospective donors will be asked whether they have had sex with a prostitute and whether they have given sex in exchange for drugs or money in the last 12 months. They will also be asked whether they have been treated for syphilis or gonorrhea in the last 12 months.
In addition, the ban on donations from people who have received transfusions will be extended from six months to a year.
In other words, people will be asked to describe their conduct, not identify themselves as "homosexual," "gay" or "bisexual."
Verbal screening of prospective donors is important because testing of the blood supply has a gap: the AIDS antibodies do not appear for up to six months after infection.
Sanders said the screening is reliable because the kind of people to take the time out to donate blood do not want to hurt others and the process is anonymous.
The policy continues the ban on donations from black Africans unless they can be tested for a form of the AIDS virus, HIV-2, that is endemic in West Africa. Such tests have been developed but are not widely used in the United States.