New blood donation rules to loosen restrictions on gay and bisexual men

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have announced gay and bisexual men will no longer have to abstain from sex in order to be able to give blood in the US.

Widespread calls from members of Congress, the American Red Cross and LGBTQ organisations have urged the ban to be dropped which was originally put in place during the 1980s AIDS epidemic.

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In 1983 bans were placed on homosexual groups of men to stop them giving blood as HIV and AIDS were new diseases that had infected the country – the world at the time had no idea on how to treat them.

However, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 15,000 Americans died of HIV or AIDS in 2019, a huge drop from the over 40,000 who died in the late 1980s.

Criticism from LGBTQ advocates have previously described the prohibition as unscientific and discriminatory.

Bernie Sanders, Senior US Sentator from Vermont and Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, wrote a letter to the US Health and Human Services, which includes the FDA, complaining about leaving gay and bisexual men out of the blood donation process.

The letter said: ‘While no single solution can fully solve these challenges, the FDA has the ability to take a simple and science-based step to dramatically increase the donor base and help address this crisis.

‘[A]ny policy that continues to categorically single out the LGBTQ+ community is discriminatory and wrong’.

Instead of stopping gay and bisexual men from giving blood, the FDA plan to adopt a gender-inclusive approach, which will screen donors depending on their recent sexual activity – introduced in 2015, the law currently claims gay and bisexual men cannot donate blood if they have had sex with another man the previous year and women who had slept with a bisexual man are also exempt.

However, the 12-month period has now been reduced to three months following severe blood shortages which occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FDA said the new guidelines, announced last week, would be more inclusive and were based on a review of a recent study and data from other countries, including Britain and Canada, that took similar approaches.

Dr Robert Califf, the FDA Commissioner, said: ‘Where it’s for someone involved in a car accident or an individual with life-threatening illness, blood donation saves lives every day.

‘We’re committed to doing the best available science to inform and revise our polices to increase those eligible to donate blood and to maintain appropriate safeguards to protect the recipients of blood products’.

In light of the FDA’s recent announcement, the beginning of February also marks the beginning of LGBTQ+ History Month.


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