US FDA Proposes Eased Restrictions on Blood Donations from Gay, Bisexual Men

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday proposed revisions to its guidelines to make it easier for gay and bisexual men to donate blood, eliminating a three-month abstinence period before donations.

The restrictions were implemented years ago to prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

In a release posted to the agency’s website, the FDA said under the draft proposals, all donors — regardless of sexual orientation — would be given a questionnaire regarding new partners, sexual history, and certain types of sexual activities.

Any prospective donors who do not report having new or multiple sexual partners and have not engaged in certain practices, such as anal sex, in the previous three months, may be eligible to donate, provided all other eligibility criteria are met.

The proposed new guidelines would allow gay and bisexual men in monogamous, long-term relationships to more easily give blood.

The FDA said the draft proposals were developed after reviewing available information, including data from Britain and Canada, countries with similar HIV epidemiology that have implemented the “gender-inclusive, individual risk-based approach for assessing donor eligibility.”

In the statement, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said, “Maintaining a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood products in the U.S. is paramount for the FDA,” and these proposals will allow the agency to do so.

Under the plan, the donor deferral time periods would stay in place for other HIV risk factors, including for those who have exchanged sex for money or drugs, or have a history of non-prescription injection drug use.

Any individual who has ever had a positive test for HIV or who has taken any medication to treat HIV infection would continue to be deferred permanently.

The proposed guideline changes released Friday will be open for public comment for 60 days. The agency will then review and consider all comments before finalizing the changes.

Source: Voice Of America

US, EU Launch Agreement on Artificial Intelligence

The United States and European Union announced Friday an agreement to speed up and enhance the use of artificial intelligence to improve agriculture, health care, emergency response, climate forecasting and the electric grid.

A senior U.S. administration official, discussing the initiative shortly before the official announcement, called it the first sweeping AI agreement between the United States and Europe. Previously, agreements on the issue had been limited to specific areas such as enhancing privacy, the official said.

AI modeling, which refers to machine-learning algorithms that use data to make logical decisions, could be used to improve the speed and efficiency of government operations and services.

“The magic here is in building joint models [while] leaving data where it is,” the senior administration official said. “The U.S. data stays in the U.S. and European data stays there, but we can build a model that talks to the European and the U.S. data, because the more data and the more diverse data, the better the model.”

The initiative will give governments greater access to more detailed and data-rich AI models, leading to more efficient emergency responses and electric grid management, and other benefits, the administration official said.

Pointing to the electric grid, the official said the United States collects data on how electricity is being used, where it is generated, and how to balance the grid’s load so that weather changes do not knock it offline.

Many European countries have similar data points they gather relating to their own grids, the official said. Under the new partnership, all that data would be harnessed into a common AI model that would produce better results for emergency managers, grid operators and others relying on AI to improve systems.

The partnership is currently between the White House and the European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-member European Union. The senior administration official said other countries would be invited to join in the coming months.

Source: Voice Of America