The Food and Drug Administration has proposed removing the ban on blood donations from gay men, a policy long considered discriminatory by LGBTQ+ advocate organizations. The FDA is expected to adopt the proposal after a 60-day public comment period.
The new policy will ask donors about their HIV status, partner status, and specific medications, rather than a blanket prohibition. The FDA’s new policy comes after a study of 1,600 gay and bisexual men tested the efficacy of a personalized sexual questionnaire to the FDA’s current time-based abstinence rules. “We feel confident that the safety of the blood supply will be maintained,” says the FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks.
“Almost all of us will need blood products at one time or another as we go through life,” says FDA Commissioner Robert Califf. He notes the importance of donating blood as an act of service, saying the FDA’s new policies will make that a possibility.
The FDA banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS epidemic. In 2015, the ban was lifted and replaced with a one-year abstinence clause. Blood shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic led the FDA to then shorten the clause to three months of abstinence.
Gay rights groups have long opposed the FDA’s blood donation rules, calling them discriminatory. The American Medical Association has also spoken out against screening the rules since the advancement of medical technology to test blood for infectious diseases. The current policy would not allow individuals who have tested positive for HIV to donate. Individuals on PrEP must wait to donate at least three months after their last dose. This is because the medication can delay the detection of the virus in blood screening tests.
LGBTQ+ groups are in support of the FDA’s decision, but encourage them to reconsider their policy for donors on PrEP.
“We must be conscious to not further stigmatize these safe sex practices and uplift individuals taking precautions,” said Jose Abrigo, the HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal.
Advocates are in support of the FDA’s decision, including the president and CEO of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis. “These changes are 40 years in the making.”
The new policy would mirror Canada and the UK’s blood donation policies going forward.