New FDA Rule Allows More Gay And Bisexual Men To Donate Blood

The Food and Drug Administration has finalized a new rule that will allow more gay and bisexual men to donate blood, effectively ending a full ban enacted during the AIDS crisis. 

According to the latest guidelines, all potential blood donors will fill out the same individual risk-based assessment regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, the FDA announced Thursday.

Gay and bisexual men were previously subject to a lifetime ban on blood donations, which was widely regarded as discriminatory. The ban was implemented during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s due to higher rates of HIV infection among gay men.

“The implementation of these recommendations will represent a significant milestone for the agency and the LGBTQI+ community,” Peter Marks, M.D., PhD., and director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in the statement.

The FDA began reviewing its policies on blood donations from gay and bisexual men several years ago. While recent changes allowed gay and bisexual men to donate blood, they were still required to complete a three-month waiting period in which they abstained from sex before doing so. 

Though the full ban has been lifted, restrictions remain for gay men seeking to donate blood. The updated regulations, which were initially proposed in January, remove time-based deferrals and questions that were specific to men who have sex with men, or to women who have sex with those men.

But the FDA has introduced a risk-based questionnaire that all potential donors must complete to determine their eligibility. Sexually active gay and bisexual men who aren’t in a monogamous relationship will still be required to abstain for three months prior to donation, NBC News reports.    

People who are using medications to prevent or treat HIV, such as PrEP, would also be asked to defer donating blood.

This change aligns the U.S. with other countries such as Canada and the U.K., which have also adopted risk-based guidelines.