FILE - Donors give blood at record attempt for blood donations, Rutland, Vt., Dec. 2011.
FILE - Donors give blood at record attempt for blood donations, Rutland, Vt., Dec. 2011.

In a move that could increase blood donations in the U.S., federal regulators announced Tuesday that they are scrapping a decades-old ban prohibiting gay and bisexual men from donating blood. The move, called long overdue by some observers, could boost blood supplies by an estimated two to four percent.

The lifetime ban on blood donations by gays and bisexual men was put in place in 1983, when the first cases of HIV infection began to emerge. At the time, there was no quick test to determine whether donations were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

However, the Food and Drug Administration has opted to keep in place a more modest ban, prohibiting blood donations by men who have had sex with other men in the past year.

There is a similar, limited ban in place in a number of European countries, including Great Britain.

The move to eliminate a lifetime ban on blood donations is being hailed by those who say the prohibition perpetuates the stigma against gay men and bisexuals, and is not based on the latest science.

The FDA said it is attempting to issue draft guidance on the policy, hopefully by early in 2015. An FDA advisory committee met this month to discuss issues around changing the policy, such as the effectiveness of new blood supply tests for HIV infections. In November, an advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended a one-year deferral.

In September, the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said a study showed eliminating the ban would bring in 615,300 pints of blood annually. Instituting a one-year deferral period would bring in 317,000 pints, the study found.

Portions of this report are from Reuters.