The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
is considering easing its ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.
The FDA adopted a lifetime ban on gay
men donating blood in 1983 in response to the AIDS crisis. In 2015,
the agency relaxed the ban to allow for donations from gay men who
have abstained from sexual contact for 12 months. In 2020, the FDA
shortened the deferral period to 3 months to address the need for
blood during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Axios, a nationwide blood
shortage has prompted the FDA to reconsider the policy.
“An option under discussion is moving
from a three-month deferral period to individual risk assessments
based on questionnaires about recent sexual activity,” Axios
The FDA funded a study to determine
whether it is safe to change the policy. The FDA said that initial
data from the study “will likely support a policy transition to
individual risk-based donor screening questions for reducing the risk
of HIV transmission.”
In January, a group of senators led by
out Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin called on the FDA to lift the
policy, calling it “discriminatory.”
“We urge the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) to quickly act on the best available science and
update its outdated and discriminatory blood donor deferral policies
for men who have sex with men (MSM), a long overdue step that would
dramatically increase the eligible donor base,” the senators wrote
at the time.
“Given advances in blood screening
and safety technology, a time-based policy for gay and bisexual men
is not scientifically sound, continues to effectively exclude an
entire group of people, and does not meet the urgent demands of the
moment,” they added.
In recent years, the UK, Israel,
France, and Canada have eased their restrictions on gay men who wish
to donate blood.