Aug. 8, 2023 -- Many gay and bisexual men are now eligible to donate blood after the American Red Cross put into effect a change in FDA policy.
“This change eliminated previous FDA eligibility criteria based on sexual orientation,” the Red Cross said on its website. “The Red Cross celebrates this significant progress and also recognizes there is more work to be done to make blood donation even more inclusive.”
The FDA loosened restrictions against gay men donating blood in May. The ban had been in effect since 1985, the height of the AIDS crisis, over fears about tainted blood. It included a lifetime ban against donations from any man who had ever had sex with another man since 1977.
The FDA changed the rules in 2015, reducing to 12 months the period between a man’s last sexual contact with another man and his donation.
The period was reduced to three months at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.
The policy “newly permits donations from men in monogamous relationships with other men, as well as those who have not recently engaged in anal sex,” NBC News reported.
Gay rights groups had long pressed for the looser restrictions, arguing that the previous blanket ban was discriminatory and “not based on sound science given advances in testing technology,” NBC said.
All blood donations are screened for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and hepatitis B and C.
The screening procedure now blocks donations from anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, who reports having sex with a new person within three months or who reports having anal sex within three months.
David Stacy of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, told NBC the change “a long-awaited step forward” that “marks the end to a decades-old ban rooted in discrimination and bias.”