The FDA relaxed much of its longtime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, according to the New York Times.
Gay and bisexual men – however only those in monogamous relationships – can now donate blood in the U.S. without having to abstain from sex.
FDA Ends Ban On Blood Donations From Gay, Bisexual Men, But Some Restrictions Still Apply
Instead – the FDA will now request all potential donors share details of their recent sexual history in a form, the Times reports. That’s regardless of sexual orientation, sex, or gender.
Among those questions will be whether a person has had anal sex in the last three months and if they have had sex with new or multiple partners in that same time frame.
However, several bans will remain in place for those with new or multiple sexual partners or those that have participated in anal sex within the last three months. The ban similarly extends to those prescribed oral PrEP to avoid HIV.
Meanwhile, shortages in blood supply and new donations have prompted the FDA to revise their guidelines, deemed discriminatory by critics.
Move Is Latest By FDA To Broaden Donor Availability After COVID-19 Pandemic Donations Decline
Blood donations declined during and after the pandemic because there were fewer blood drives at schools and offices.
The FDA said the new adjustments to the screening policy remain in line with rules in the U.K. and Canada.
It’s the latest move by the FDA to broaden donor eligibility and boost donations. The move also comes amidst widespread pressure from LGBTQ groups, who call the ban discriminatory.
Meanwhile, those who have previously tested positive for HIV still cannot donate blood. Those taking medication to prevent HIV through sexual contact will remain banned until three months after their last dose.
The federal agency reports that certain HIV medications (PrEP) can often delay the virus’s detection in screening tests.
Updated guidelines for blood donation policies were finalized on Thursday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), loosening restrictions for men who have sex with men. pic.twitter.com/AWWjCIKC6p
— CGTN America (@cgtnamerica) May 11, 2023
A History Of Blood Donation Restrictions For Gay, Bisexual Men, Current Screening Questions
Any potential blood donor must answer questions regarding their sexual history, drug use (injectable drugs), new tattoos, and new piercings.
The blood is then tested for HIV, hepatitis C, syphilis, and other infectious diseases before being eligible for donation, according to the Times.
It’s just the latest step for the FDA to catch up to new social mores over the last several years.
In 2015, the FDA dropped a lifetime ban on men who have sex with men before requiring one year of abstinence, per NPR.
A few years later, the federal agency shortened the abstinence period from 12 months to three months.
Donations plummeting during the COVID-19 pandemic largely prompted the move to shorten abstinence times.
Years later, regulators said there have yet to be negative impacts on the blood supply due to coronavirus.