The Food and Drug Administration is opening up blood donations to sexually-active men in monogamous relationships with other men, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Currently, FDA policy makes all gay and bisexual men abstain from sex for three months before donating blood. This restrictive policy came after gay and bi men were essentially locked out of blood donation efforts for decades due to HIV fears — medical experts have long called limits on LGBTQ+ blood donation outdated and stigmatizing.
In a statement about the Wall Street Journal's reporting, the FDA said they are still evaluating the current policy.
"The FDA remains committed to evaluating alternatives to the time-based deferral policy by helping to facilitate the generation of the scientific evidence that might support an individual risk assessment-based blood donor questionnaire," the FDA said.
The agency said it was not reviewing the results from the Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility (ADVANCE) pilot study to find help determine a new policy. "This FDA funded study, conducted at community health centers in key locations across the United States, has generated data that will help the FDA determine if a donor questionnaire based on individual risk assessment would be as effective as time-based deferrals in reducing the risk of HIV," it explained.
"Although we do not have a specific timeline for when our analysis will be complete, the agency believes the initial data from the study, taken in the context of other data available from blood surveillance in the U.S. and in other countries, will likely support a policy transition to individual risk-based donor screening questions for reducing the risk of HIV transmission."
The FDA added that it believes it will announce new guidance into donor policies in the coming months and the results from the ADVANCE study.
“While today’s reports of an overdue move from the FDA is an important step, our community and leading medical experts will not stop advocating for the FDA to lift all restrictions against qualified LGBTQ blood donor candidates,” Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement.
“As LGBTQ leaders and medical experts have been saying for years: bans and restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men are rooted in stigma, not science. Giving one set of rules to some people, and another set of rules to others, based purely on identity, is blatant discrimination. This fight is not over until all LGBTQ Americans who want to donate blood are met with the same protocols as other Americans. All potential blood donors, whose donations could save lives, should be treated equally. There is no excuse for choosing stigma over science in 2022.”
The Biden administration indicated in January 2022 that they were open to amending the current policy banning men from donating blood if they've had sex with another man in the past three months.
The policy’s history goes back to the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s. In 1985, the FDA put a lifetime donation ban on men who have sex with men. However, in 2015, that was changed to a requirement for 12 months of celibacy before donation, due to advances in HIV testing. In 2020, the policy was changed again due to blood shortages early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, men who have sex with men must wait three months after having sex with a man in order to give blood.