For the past 30 years, the U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA) has prevented gay men from donating blood. But all of that may soon change as advisors meet this week to review the policy.

In 1983, the FDA banned gay men from donating blood due to concerns about the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne diseases. Although HIV can be transmitted by both men and women, gay and straight, the policy was enacted at a time when AIDS was just beginning to emerge in the U.S. and was found to be more prevalent among gay men and men who had sexual contact with other men.

The disease is better understood today, but still the policy has remained in place, despite criticisms from the LGBT community, some lawmakers and groups that call it discriminatory and question its scientific validity. 

This week, for the first time in 31 years, an FDA advisory panel will meet to discuss whether or not gay men should now be allowed to donate blood. If the Blood Products Advisory Committee decides it is best to lift the ban, it is likely that the FDA will follow this recommendation, reversing the decades-old prohibition.

The result could be a lifesaver for millions around the country.

One study conducted by the researchers from the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law at the University of California, Los Angeles found that allowing gay men to donate blood would increase the supply of blood by over 615,000 pints per year — enough to save the lives of 1.8 million people. 

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