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This Monday, the FDA policy permitting more gay and bisexual men to donate blood went into effect.
The policy went into effect as a result of the American Red Cross’ implementation of changes in the Food and Drug Administration’s policy.
The policy, which officially began this May, permits donations from men in monogamous relationships with other men, as well as those who had recently engaged in anal sex.
In a statement, The Red Cross said it looked forward to welcoming those who may be newly eligible to give through a more inclusive blood donation process.
They continued saying “This historic change in approach to donor eligibility is significant progress, resulting in a blood donation process that is more inclusive than ever before. The Red Cross celebrates the FDA’s elimination of blood donation policies based on sexual orientation.”
The new changes have been lauded by medical community and LGBTQ rights activists who fought to end previous restrictive guidelines.
Donating blood is one of several really important symbolic methods of demonstrating one’s caring for other people,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said. “We want to make that available to everyone possible in the context of a safe blood supply.”
In a statement Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said “Our approach to this work has always been, and will continue to be, based on the best available science and data."
Marks continued saying, “Over the years, this data-driven process has enabled us to revise our policies thereby increasing those eligible to donate blood while maintaining appropriate safeguards to protect recipients,”
In the 1980s during the AIDS crisis, the FDA imposed a lifetime ban on donating blood for men who have sexual relations with men. The ban was officially enacted in 1985 with an emphasis on men who had sex with men going back to 1977. The FDA eased restrictions in 2015, allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood if they abstained from sex in the previous year.
Due to a blood shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA announced they would be shortening the restriction on gay and bisexual men who had not had sex within the past three months to donate. For decades LGBTQ+ rights groups and the medical community urged the FDA to lift restrictions.
In January 2022 former American Medical Association President Gerald E. Harmon, MD urged the FDA to lift restrictions calling them “discriminatory”.
“At issue is the need to evaluate all potential blood donors on an equal basis based on their individual risk factors and without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Harmon said.
In response to the FDA’s announcement The American Red Cross, one of the nation's largest suppliers of blood and blood products, issued a statement saying, “The Red Cross has worked for many years to change the deferral policy concerning men who have sex with men (MSM) – this work included decades of data collection and assessment on the impact to transfusion safety, ongoing advocacy to eliminate donor questions based on sexual orientation, and our recent role as a leading contributor in the FDA-funded ADVANCE Study.”
The statement continued by saying, “The Red Cross also recognizes the hurt this policy has caused and that these are just the first steps in repairing relationships with the broader LGBTQ community.”