Rules for gay and bi men donating blood finally relaxed amid coronavirus crisis. But it’s still not enough

Blood donation rules finally relaxed for gay and bisexual men

After pressure from politicians and LGBT+ advocates, the rules on gay and bisexual men donating blood in the US have finally been relaxed amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revised its guidelines to allow for more blood donations from gay and bisexual men, as well as the people who have sex with them.

Previously, queer men and people who have sex with them were barred from donating blood or plasma if they had been sexually active in the previous 12 months.

Under the new guidelines, announced today, the FDA has lowered the deferral period to three months.

GLAAD, the LGBT+ advocacy organisation that started a petition to end the ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood, tweeted: “Victory!”

“After weeks of pressure from GLAAD and others, @US_FDA is lowering the deferral period on men who have sex with men from 12 months to 3 months.”

“This victory, however, remains imperfect. We’ll keep pushing for the ban to be lifted entirely,” GLAAD added.

Blood banks all over the world have been facing shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic, yet in both the US and the UK gay and bisexual men are still unable to donate if they are sexually active.

According to the American Red Cross, since the coronavirus began 2,700 blood drives have been cancelled, resulting in 86,000 fewer blood donations.

The UK’s NHS has also announced: “Our centres are open but we are now collecting less blood.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of the politicians who signed a scathing letter to the FDA earlier this week urging it to end the discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood.

“We urge you to immediately revise the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation that blood donation centers turn away men who have sex with men (MSM) who have been sexually active in the past 12 months,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez, along with New York representative Carolyn Maloney.

“This antiquated policy is not based on current science, stigmatises 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 said.

“Based on our evaluation of the totality of the scientific evidence available, we are revising the 2015 recommendations for reducing the risk of HIV transmission by blood products including: For male donors who would have been deferred for having sex with another man; the agency is changing the recommended deferral period from 12 months to 3 months,” the FDA wrote in an email, according to Out Magazine.

However, the three-month blood donation ban on men who have sex with men will still exclude many gay and bisexual men who are sexually active, such as those in relationships.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and president of GLAAD, said in a statement: “LGBTQ Americans can hold their heads up today and know that our voices will always triumph over discrimination.

“This is a victory for all of us who raised our collective voices against the discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

“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.

“We will keep fighting until the deferral period is lifted and gay and bi men, and all LGBTQ people, are treated equal to others.”