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Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank Statement on FDA Policy Toward Gay Men as Eye Donors

Recent media coverage of the organ donation made by Iowa teenager, Alexander "AJ" Betts Jr., shed light on the longstanding Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations that bar eye tissue donations from male donors who have had sex with another male in the five years prior to donating eye tissues.

The regulation was enacted at the start of the HIV epidemic in the United States, which at the time was more prevalent among gay and bisexual men than any other group. At that time, early HIV tests were highly accurate but their long window periods for detection increased the risk of HIV transmission via transplantation. New tests used to screen the blood of eye donors today detect viral genes themselves, rather than antibodies or viral proteins, thus allowing much earlier and more accurate detection. Further, the behaviors that increase the risk of HIV transmission are well known and not, in any way, exclusive to this population.

The Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank believes the current deferral policy is discriminatory and ignores current science. RMLEB calls on the FDA to review and loosen requirements for eye donation to reflect the current understanding of HIV transmission, modern testing methods and known high-risk behaviors across all populations.