FDA To Ease Blood Donation Restrictions On Gay Men

France has lifted its ban on blood donations by gay and/or bisexual men which has been in place since the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The Food and Drug Administration has announced new guidance that will allow monogamous gay and bisexual men to donate blood without having to abstain from sex.

Gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships will no longer be forced to abstain from sex to donate blood under federal guidelines to be proposed in coming days, ending a vestige of the earliest days of the AIDS crisis.

From the Washington Post:

The planned relaxation of restrictions by the Food and Drug Administration follows years of pressure by blood banks, the American Medical Association and LGBT rights organizations to abandon rules some experts say are outdated, homophobic and ineffective at keeping the nation’s blood supply safe.

The new approach eliminates rules that target men who have sex with men and instead focuses on sexual behaviors by people, regardless of gender, that pose a higher risk of contracting and transmitting HIV, according to an official with direct knowledge of the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment.

The restrictive policies regarding gay men and blood donations began in the mid-1980s as the HIV epidemic was taking hold in the U.S.

In 1985, the FDA announced what amounted to a lifetime ban on blood donations from any men who had had sex with another men. As blood testing technology improved, the FDA relaxed the restrictions to some degree.

In 2015, the FDA eased blood donation restrictions for gay men who abstained from sex for 12 months. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spiraled out of control and blood shortages became more severe, the agency reduced the waiting period to 3 months.

The new policy is expected to be adopted by the FDA following a period of public comment.

The United Kingdom, Canada, and France have all made similar adjustments to their blood donation policies in recent years as well.

It’s worth noting that non-monogamous straight folks have been allowed to donate blood all these years without a hitch. And yet, people who acquired HIV through heterosexual contact made up 22% (6,626) of HIV diagnoses in the U.S. in 2020.