Gay Men Can Donate Blood: New FDA Regulations

The Food and Drug Administration in the USA has dropped all restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

The new regulations, first proposed in January, will move to an “individual risk-based” approach for blood donations to reduce any risks of HIV.

  • Gay and bisexual men will be able to donate blood.
  • A new “risk-based” assessment is to be applied to all donors regardless of sexual identity.
  • The past 3 months of sexual activity of a donor will be the new judge to determine eligibility.
  • New sexual partners, more than one sexual partner, and anal sex are not allowed within the past 3 months of donating blood.

The FDA first banned donations from gay and bisexual men during the AIDS crisis of the 80s. Although this ban was relaxed in recent years, it remained still. This ban was seen as discriminatory ever since its implementation and was a major example of systemic discrimination against homosexuality in the USA. 

Peters Marks, M.D., PhD., and director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research call the new regulations a “significant milestone” for the FDA and the LGBTQ+ community.

The FDA’s new “risk-based” questionnaire has to be completed by all potential donors to determine eligibility. In 2015, the FDA loosened the ban but required men who have sex with men to abstain from sexual acts for at least one year before donation.

Under the new regulations, everyone (regardless of their sexual orientation) will be asked about their sexual history within the past 3 months. Anyone who reports a new sexual partner, more than one sexual partner, or anal sex, will be delayed from donating blood. Anyone taking medication for HIV will also be delayed from donating blood.

These new regulations come in the midst of a nationwide blood shortage, leading some to accuse the FDA of only allowing these regulations due to an emergency, but they still gladly welcome this change.

The new regulations have been welcomed by activists, medical professionals, and everyone with open arms, calling the new regulations a “victory of science over stigma”  and “the end of a dark past rooted in fear and homophobia”. However, Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, takes issue with the deferral of HIV-negative donors who take PrEP to prevent infection.

The new regulations now put the United States of America on the same level as Canada and the United Kingdom, which had also adopted a risk-based guideline.

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