Progress has been made in the LGBTQ+ community in the coming years, but there is still an issue of queer men receiving fair treatment when it comes to donating blood. Since the rise of AIDS and HIV began in the US in 1983, the pressure to prevent queer men from donating blood also rose.
In 1986, the U.S banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood. It wasn’t until 2015 that they could donate blood again but only by meeting certain restrictions. Furthermore, the FDA revised the policy again, whereas they were eligible to donate blood a year after engaging in sexual intercourse.
Five years later, during the global pandemic, the FDA revised the policy for the third time. This time, they changed the time frame to three months. It seemed there was no hope left for gay men being restricted to donate as opposed to heterosexuals and even lesbian women.
Fortunately, things are taking a turn for the better after the introduction of the ADVANCE Study. The ADVANCE Study, which stands for Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility. The study is focused on evaluating alternatives to the blood donor deferral policy known as men who have sex with men (MSM).
Though, it would only be under the sentiment that the FDA would remove the restrictions that have plagued queer men since the 1980s. The blood centers are looking forward to the change, especially since there’s a shortage of blood supply throughout the U.S.
In an interview with South Florida’s WLRN’s news publication, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Relations Susan Forbes discussed in depth the new study.
According to Forbes, the study will use a “case-by-case” approach rather than going by a time-based deferral. In other words, gay men won’t have to wait after three months of engaging in intercourse to donate blood. In fact, they may not have to wait at all. The ADVANCE Study is seeking to replace the restriction in the form of an assessment questionnaire.
With less than 10% of Americans donating blood in the United States, the ADVANCE Study will certainly help increase that number. More importantly, it’ll greatly impact the LGBTQ community.
In order to qualify, Forbes gave a few simple guidelines for participants to follow. For one, they must be between the ages 18 and 39 and be a residence of the eight cities participating in the ADVANCE Study. Second, men participating must have had sex with another man within the last three months. Sounds simple enough. Though, Forbes notes that they need between 2,000 to 2,500 more queer men to participate in the study.
In an effort to spread the word, the White House has even gotten involved. In a letter to Representative Val Demings, the FDA is seeking out alternatives to combat the ban on blood donations from queer men. In an interview with WMFE, Demings discussed what led her to support the study in the first place.
According to the representative, she believes that the gay community should be treated equally, especially when it comes to saving a life. Demings addressed the 2016 Orlando Shooting that took place at the gay nightclub Pulse. Furthermore, the White House representative noted that “several members from the LGBTQ community wanted to help by donating blood to the injured victims.”
However, the volunteers were turned away due to the discrimination and bias nature of the blood donating ban. Now with the ADVANCE Study on rise, those individuals will have the chance to save lives.
Additionally, Demings discussed the importance the ADVANCE Study will have on providing blood supply. More importantly, the impact it’ll have on the LGBTQ community.
“It is extremely important because the data that results from the study will certainly help to expedite and push ultimately, where we’re trying to get to forward. I’m just grateful that the Center has stepped up and is recruiting participants for the study, but there are recruiting efforts going on in several states throughout the nation. And so, you know, we want to be ready when the FDA is ultimately ready to move on this. And so the participation now is critical,” Demings told WMFE.
The ADVANCE study seems a like a promising first step in the right direction. Hopefully, the study proves successful and helps improve the treatment towards queer men.
If you'd like to schedule an appointment, appointments are required to enroll in the ADVANCE study. Please visit advancestudy.org and click on the location near you to schedule your appointment. The study is being started in different cities over the next several months. If the link for your location is not active, the study has not yet started in your city.