US FDA to finally ease archaic rules on gay and bisexual men giving blood

A picture of an individual's arm as they are donating blood, with a professional in blue latex gloves presiding over the operation.

The US Food and Drugs Association (FDA) will finally let gay and bisexual men give blood after protests.

The regulatory body will allow men in monogamous same-sex relationships without abstaining from sex under newly drafted guidelines according to the Wall Street Journal.

The rules are expected to be implemented in the following months, where applicable donors will now be able to complete individualised risk assessments.

The change came after an agency-funded study found that individual risk assessments would be as effective as time deferrals that are currently in place to keep blood safe.

A survey of 1,600 gay and bisexual men asked whether they had more than one sex partner during a period of time, the types of activity they engaged in, and whether they used contraceptives such as a condom.

A blood donation van with the words "please give blood" is parked in a parking space, ready to accept donations.
The Red Cross declared its first ever national crisis as the supply of blood dropped to dangerously low levels. (Getty)

“We have a strong data set,” Vitalant Research Institute director Dr. Brian Custer said. “We have highly relevant information to envision what an individual risk-based approach would look like.”

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The assessments would determine whether applicable groups would be able to donate blood, depending on whether they had new sexual partners in the last three months, as well as other factors.

Unprotected anal sex would also post a higher risk of HIV transmission according to the Centers for Disease Control, and would also prevent donors from giving blood.

Gay and bisexual were originally banned from donating blood outright until the restrictions were lifted in 2015.

However, potential donors still needed to abstain from sex for one year to donate, making it extremely difficult for the identity group to donate.

This was eventually shorted to three months in 2020, but advocates and LGBTQ+ groups said this still wasn’t enough.

LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD responds to the FDA policy update

In response to the change of policy, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) said that allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood is important, but “overdue.”

GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said: “As LGBTQ+ leaders and medical experts have been saying for years – bans and restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men are rooted in stigma, not science.

“This fight is not over until all LGBTQ+ Americans who want to donate blood are met with the same protocols as other Americans,” Ellis continued. “All potential blood donors, whose donations could save lives, should be treated equally.

“There is no excuse for choosing stigma over science in 2022.”

GLAAD has routinely advocated for an end to the restrictions for gay and bisexual men.

In 2020, the group released an open letter signed by over 500 medical professionals that responded to the FDA’s mitigation of the one-year wait period.

It said that the country was on the “precipice of a critical nationwide shortage of blood products,” and that restricting who could donate was “outdated.”

“A broad ban against [gay and bisexual male] blood donors does not take into account that actual risk behaviour in question that could jeopardise blood supply safety,” the letter read. “We advocate for scientifically-driven standards that uphold the utmost safety of the blood supply and simultaneously prompt equity.”

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