FDA offers relaxing blood donation laws for gay and bisexual men

August 9, 2023: FDA offers relaxing blood donation laws for gay and bisexual men without restrictions that specifically single out a person’s sexual exposure or gender, the nonprofit group said on Monday.

The Red Cross enforces recent Food and Drug Administration screening guidelines that apply to all potential donors based on an individual risk assessment. The Red Cross provides nearly 40% of the nation’s blood supply.

Under the new FDA guidelines, men in monogamous sexual relationships with other men can donate as long as they meet additional screening criteria. Yet, men who had sex with men had to remain abstinent for three months before donating blood.

The three-month waiting period now applies to anyone, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender, who has had intercourse with a new partner or multiple people and has even had anal sex.

The Red Cross stated that the organization understands the waiting period based on a history of anal sex appears to target gay and bisexual men unfairly.

The nonprofit company is working with the FDA to make the blood donation guidelines more inclusive.

The FDA in May settled a nearly 40-year policy that had singled out men who have sex with men as high risk to the blood supply over concerns about HIV transmission.

Gay rights groups and leading medical associations had long opposed this policy as unnecessary, unsupported by the current science, and discriminatory.

The American Medical Association criticized the FDA policy as unfairly singling out gay men rather than looking at a person’s risk factors. While gay men faced donation restrictions, even if they had protected sex, straight men and women who had unprotected sex with multiple partners could still donate.

In the wake of the AIDs situation in the 1980s, the FDA instructed blood donation agencies not to accept blood from men who have sex with men. This policy was in place from 1985 until 2015.

This policy was implemented at a time when HIV was poorly understood and remained in place even as technology significantly improved to screen donations for blood-borne diseases, according to the AMA.

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