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February 20, 1991

Will More Donor Questions Make Blood Safer?

JAMA. 1991;265(7):838-839. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460070016006

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SCREENING of blood donors based solely on geographic or national origins is being eliminated. In its place will be expanded oral interviews aimed at identifying donors who are at high risk of transmitting disease. These interviews will include direct questions regarding risk behaviors, especially sexual habits, for infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent an advisory notice to blood bankers outlining the changes in the donor deferral system. The new recommendations are being phased in now.

Last April, an FDA advisory committee recommended that the agency drop its policy of excluding blood donors based on national origin as a way of reducing the risk of transmitting infection from HIV and other blood-borne pathogens. That originally proposed ban was strongly protested by Haitians, in particular, as discriminatory.

The advisory notice also extends the existing donor-exclusion period from 6 to 12 months for those