USA

FDA study could lead to removal of restrictions on blood donations by gay and bisexual men

Silver Spring, Maryland - The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched a study which could finally remove discriminatory restrictions on blood donations coming from gay and bisexual men.

A landmark study funded by the FDA could remove restrictions on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.
A landmark study funded by the FDA could remove restrictions on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.  © imago images / Xinhua

At the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1985, gay and bisexual men were banned from giving blood. At the time, blood-screening for HIV was still limited.

Many critics have since called for an end to the restriction, claiming that it discriminates against gay and bisexual men on a federal level.

If the FDA policy changes, more gay and bisexual men would be able to donate blood in the US going forward.

The FDA amended the rules in 2015 for the first time, requiring gay and bi men to abstain from sex for 12 months before they donate.

The rule applies to queer men who are monogamous, test HIV-negative, and are practicing safe sex, as well as to gay and bi coronavirus survivors who want to donate convalescent plasma.

Responding to blood shortages during the pandemic, authorities relaxed these rules in April and allowed gay and bi men to donate as long as they haven't had sex in at least three months.

But a pilot study called Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility (ADVANCE), funded through the FDA, could now remove restrictions altogether.

Three of the nation's largest blood centers, Vitilant, OneBlood, and the American Red Cross, will team up with LGBTQ+ community centers around the US and present data to the FDA for review by late 2021, according to ABC News.

It is the first study of its kind.

A removal of the restrictions is underway

"The purpose of the study is to determine whether a different donor deferral can be used at blood centers nationwide while maintaining the safety of the blood supply," the ADVANCE website reads. "For this to be possible, a change would need to be made to the donor history questionnaire, and this study is the first step in assessing the safety of a change."

A removal of the time-based restrictions on donors is not only being considered, but is on its way, the FDA told ABC News. A final decision is expected late next year. The study came the same week the UK changed its blood donation laws, no longer requiring gay and bi men to abstain from sex.

Cover photo: imago images / Xinhua

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