FDA Lifts Ban on Blood Donations From Gay and Bisexual Men
The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday it would end its ban on allowing blood donations from men who have recently had sex with men. New guidelines instead advise asking all potential donors the same questions about their recent sexual history, regardless of their sexual orientation, sex or gender. At the same time, the agency said they would not allow donations from people taking PrEP to prevent HIV, because the medication can cause a false negative test for HIV/AIDS.
The new policy is based on multiple scientific studies and follows the lead of Canada and the United Kingdom, which have adopted similar approaches. The update has the potential to “expand the number of people eligible to donate blood, while also maintaining the appropriate safeguards to protect the safety of the blood supply,” the FDA said in a press release.
LGBTQ advocacy groups have long criticized the ban on blood donations from gay men — ostensibly a way to prevent the spread of HIV — as discriminatory. In 2015, the FDA ended its lifetime ban on donations from gay men, replacing it with a requirement for one year of abstinence before a donation would be accepted. The latest policy eliminates screening questions specific to men who have sex with men and their partners. Instead, anyone who reports having anal sex, or sex with new or multiple partners, in the past three months could have their blood donation delayed to reduce the risk of taking donations from people who have recently been infected with HIV, the agency’s press release said.
GLAAD’s president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis posted a statement on Twitter lauding “the FDA’s decision to follow science,” calling the updated guidelines “the beginning of the end of a dark and discriminatory past rooted in fear and homophobia.” At the same time, Ellis criticized the agency’s decision to turn away donations from people taking PrEP to prevent HIV, which the agency said can delay the detection of the virus. “Placing potential blood donors taking PrEP in a separate line from every other donor adds unnecessary stigma,” she tweeted. “The bias embedded into this policy may, in fact, cost lives.”
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