FDA Eases Rules For Gay And Bi Men Donating Blood

In the midst of a worldwide blood shortage, the FDA now allows gay and bisexual men to donate blood after three months of abstinence rather than 12.

The FDA has relaxed its guidelines for blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The new guidelines were announced on Thursday in an effort to make it easier for men who sleep with men to donate blood amid the coronavirus crisis.

Previously, men were not allowed to donate blood if they’d had sex with a man within the last 12 months. Now, that number has been reduced to three months. The FDA cited an “urgent need for blood” as one reason for the new blood donor guidelines.

The FDA had faced pressure from politicians to update the ban. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York sent a letter to the FDA this week, urging them to “immediately revise” the restrictions on men who have sex with men.

“This antiquated policy is not based on current science, stigmatizes the LGBTQIA+ community, and undermines crucial efforts to increase the nation’s blood supply as the United States grapples with the coronavirus crisis,” Ocasio-Cortez and Maloney wrote.

The gay blood ban dates back to 1983. At the height of the AIDS crisis, men were banned for life from donating blood if they’d ever had sex with a man. The lifetime ban was reduced to a 12-month ban in 2015.

LGBTQ+ organizations such as GLAAD continue to push the FDA to lift the ban entirely. Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and president of GLAAD, called the new guidelines a “victory,” but added that the fight isn’t over yet.

“The FDA’s decision to lower the deferral period on men who have sex with men from 12 months to 3 months is a step towards being more in line with science, but remains imperfect,” Ellis said in a statement. “We will keep fighting until the deferral period is lifted and gay and bi men, and all LGBTQ people, are treated equal to others.”

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a worldwide shortage of blood as thousands of blood drives have been canceled.

The new FDA guidelines also loosen guidelines for other people who’d previously been subject to 12-month deferral periods. This includes people who have used injectable drugs, people who have participated in sex work, and people who have traveled to regions with certain diseases.

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