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NHF Statement on Blood Donor Deferrals

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March 19, 2010

The National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) believes that any decision to revise current blood donor deferral policies must put safety first and be made solely on the basis of scientific evidence. For this reason, NHF will be an active participant in any review and discussions on changing the donor deferral policy for men who have had sex with men (MSM) even once since 1976.

The bleeding disorders community is heavily reliant upon blood and plasma donations for the manufacture of the essential life-saving therapies on which we depend. We are grateful to all those who donate—without their generosity, treatment would not be possible for many in our community. We welcome discussions on ways to improve the safety of the nation’s blood supply not only for the bleeding disorders community, but for all who may need a blood transfusion at some time, be it for surgery or an emergency situation.

NHF asserts that any proposed changes to current donor deferral policies must satisfy the Precautionary Principle.  In this context, the Precautionary Principle implies that decisions must err on the side of caution in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not result from changing these policies. Unless there is evidence that a proposed change will not elevate the risk to the nation's blood supply, we must maintain current policies to protect the recipients of blood and blood products.

It is critical to remember that our community has been devastated by death and illness resulting from contaminated blood products.  People with bleeding disorders, including hemophilia A and B, von Willebrand disease and other rare bleeding disorders, continue to depend on a safe blood supply to lead healthy lives.  We must avoid repeating our tragic history, which will only be possible through constant vigilance and application of the Precautionary Principle to scientific review.

NHF looks forward to participating in the discussions of the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability of the Department of Health and Human Services and with others on the existing donor deferral policies related to MSM to determine whether the current state of science supports modifications to the existing policy.

NHF also strongly supports the statement by the World Federation of Hemophilia on blood donor deferrals.