US finally lifts queer blood donation ban in favour of universal restrictions

An individual donates blood in a hospital room.

A blood donation overhaul in the US will finally allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood more easily.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will ease restrictions on donations from sexually active gay men according to a Thursday (26 January) report from The Washington Post.

It was then later confirmed by the FDA itself in a statement clarifying that the proposed recommendations would take effect either later this year or early 2024.

Changes would include the elimination of time-based deferrals for gay men and women while allowing donations from those who have had one anal sex partner in the last three months.

A donor risk assessment would also be revised to consider an applicant’s sexual history to mitigate HIV risk factors, while anyone who has had a positive test for HIV in the past would be deferred permanently.

FDA commissioner Robert M. Califf said: “Maintaining a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood products in the US is paramount for the FDA.

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“This proposal for an individual risk assessment, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, will enable us to continue using the best science to do so.”

A man sits in a blood donation van as a doctor preps him for donation.
Recommendations for the FDA’s blood donation policy were originally proposed in November. (Getty)

The recommendations were originally proposed in November following research that found an individual risk assessment would be effective against potential risks.

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Vitalant Research Institute director Brian Custer said that there is a “strong data set” that would back up the effectiveness of risk assessments for blood donors.

“We have highly relevant information to envision what an individual risk-based approach would look like,” Custer said in November.

The FDA has been slowly relaxing restrictions on donations from the LGBTQ+ community since the lift of its complete ban in 2015.

In response to the blood shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the regulatory body relaxed blanket deferrals from 12 to three months.

But activists said this was still not enough and urged FDA officials to switch to risk assessments that would end discrimination and keep blood safe.

In response to the recommendations, the LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD said there is “no excuse for choosing stigma over science.”

CEO Sara Kate Ellis Said: “This fight is not over until all LGBTQ+ Americans who want to donate blood are met with the same protocols as other Americans.

“All potential blood donors, whose donations could save lives, should be treated equally.”

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