In the early 1980s, donor deferrals targeting men who have sex with men (MSM) and other high-risk groups were implemented in response to the outbreak of HIV/AIDS. It has now been three decades since the implementation of these deferrals. We review the international experience with developing these policies, which involves combining scientific evidence with ethical and moral concerns and the challenge of moving from precautionary to risk management policies as scientific knowledge and technology evolves. We provide key lessons that can guide blood policymakers as they confront potential new threats to the safety of the blood system and also provide lessons to the wider public health community on how best to incorporate precaution into the policymaking process.
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