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July 23, 1997

Criteria for Screening Blood Donors: Science or Politics?

Author Affiliations

Fresno, Calif

JAMA. 1997;278(4):289. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550040045027

To the Editor.  —I scanned the article by Dr Williams and colleagues regarding estimates of infectious disease risk factors in US blood donors with great interest and amusement. It is clear that the exclusion criteria for blood donors are based on politics, not science, weakening any scientific analysis of donor screening data for accuracy. It's a shame that something as important as US blood supply policy is governed by right-wing morality and not rigid science.According to the Blood Donor Deferral Criteria in Table 1 of the article, men who report having gay sex once in 1978 are excluded from donating blood, but heterosexuals who reported having sex with prostitutes or injection drug users in 1996 are acceptable for blood donation a year later in 1997!Consider an example: A student had sex with another male student in 1978, then remained celibate as he joined the seminary and remained