FDA to lift ban on blood donation for gay, bisexual men: report
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is said to be lifting a decades-long ban on sexually active gay and bisexual men from donating blood, overruling a restriction dating back to the 1980s AIDS crisis.
Federal guidelines are set to be proposed in the coming days, the Washington Post reported, marking a win for LGBTQIA+ rights organizations and experts who have long called the ban discriminatory.
An anonymous FDA official told WaPo that the new guidelines will focus on the sexual behaviors of all people — rather than singling out gender and sexual identities — and instead measure the risk of transmitting HIV based on sexual practices alone.
According to the alleged proposal, those in monogamous relationships, regardless of sexual orientation, will be eligible to donate blood as an act of public service. This means some previously prohibited from donating will be allowed to give blood for the first time since 1985.
“Keeping the blood supply safe is paramount, but it is also important to move forward so that we are not excluding a group of donors who could be perfectly safe,” Claudia Cohn, chief medical officer for the nonprofit Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies, told the Washington Post.
The new proposal could also impact women for the first time — specifically those who engage in anal sex, the outlet noted. The assessment for the proposed guidelines will ask any donor if they had a new sexual partner in the past three months, and will be allowed to give blood if they didn’t. Anyone who has engaged in anal sex or had a new sexual partner will be instructed to wait three months, the FDA source said.
Previously, FDA rules barred only men who have sex with other men from donating blood. First enacted in 1985, the rules were amended in 2015, requiring men to abstain from anal sex with other men for at least a year in order to donate, and again in 2020 amid a “severe” blood shortage.
In recent years, other countries have overturned similar restrictive guidelines, allowing a wider pool of eligible donors.
The move, first reported by Wall Street Journal, comes after the FDA funded a study before issuing the proposal along with new technology for blood screening to ensure safety. The FDA is said to be announcing the proposal on Friday, according to NPR, with time allotted for public comment and no expected changes in blood donation until the end of the year or early next year.
Advocates have long fought that the rules were discriminatory against sexually active gay and bisexual men.
“It’s a discriminatory policy that assumes that HIV is a gay disease, and it is very much not,” GLAAD’s Tony Morrison told NPR. “This is what we have been advocating for many, many years.”
“We shouldn’t have to fight this hard to do something as selfless as giving blood,” Cole Williams, a bisexual nursing student and advocacy group leader, said.
“I could have as much unprotected sex with as many women as I wanted, and the FDA would have no problem with that.”