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New guidelines would allow gay, bisexual men to donate blood more readily

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Posted at 11:10 AM, Feb 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-10 13:28:05-05

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing new guidelines for blood donations which could increase the number of people eligible to give the gift of life.

The FDA is proposing changes that would allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood without first abstaining from sex for a year.

During the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, the FDA imposed a lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with other men. That ban has been eased twice. In 2015, it was changed to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood if they abstained from sex for at least a year. In 2020, the guidelines were changed to require three months of abstinence.

Those guidelines have been routinely called discriminatory by the American Medical Association.

“At issue is the need to evaluate all potential blood donors on an equal basis based on their individual risk factors and without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Dr. Gerald Harmon with the AMA in January of 2022.

Under the new proposal, gay and bisexual men who are in monogamous relationships would be allowed to give blood. But the guidelines would continue to require a three-month waiting period before donation for anyone who has recently had anal sex with new or multiple partners regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

That same three-month waiting period would apply for users of illicit intravenous drugs and sex workers. Additionally, anyone who tests positive for HIV, or anyone taking HIV medications, would be banned from giving blood and those who take medications or receive injections to prevent HIV would be asked to wait 3-24 months after their most recent dose before donating, the wait time differing based upon the medication.

“We will continue to follow the best available scientific evidence to maintain an adequate supply of blood and minimize the risk of transmitting infectious diseases and are committed to finalizing this draft guidance as quickly as possible,” Dr. Peter Marks, a senior official with the FDA, said of the proposed guidelines.

Comments about the proposal can be submitted to the FDA through the end of March. A final decision about any changes will be made after that point.

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