One blood donation can help two or more patients in need, according to America’s Blood Centers. But blood banks have historically implemented restrictions preventing some gay and bisexual men from donating blood.
Now, some social media posts claim the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated its blood donation policy for gay and bisexual men. Google search data also show that people are asking whether the FDA changed its blood donation guidelines.
Are blood donation guidelines changing for men who have sex with men?
Yes, the FDA has changed its blood donation guidelines. Now, men who have sex with men can donate blood without having to abstain from sex for three months if they are in monogamous relationships.
WHAT WE FOUND
On May 11, the FDA finalized new guidelines on evaluating blood donor eligibility.
The new policy, which was first proposed in January 2023, allows men who have sex with men (MSM) in monogamous relationships to give blood without having to abstain from sex.
Previously, the FDA required MSM to abstain from sex for three months prior to giving blood.
The federal health agency says all prospective blood donors will now have to answer a “series of individual, risk-based questions” to determine whether they are eligible to give blood, regardless of their sexual orientation, sex or gender.
Under the new guidance, anyone who reports having anal sex with a new partner or more than one sexual partner in the past three months would not be allowed to donate blood at that time.
The FDA says this reduces the likelihood that people with new or recent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections will donate blood. HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and, if not treated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Anyone taking medication to treat or prevent HIV infection, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), will need to wait until three months after their most recent dose to give blood under the latest FDA guidance.
“The implementation of these recommendations will represent a significant milestone for the agency and the LGBTQI+ community,” said Peter Marks, M.D., PhD., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “The FDA is committed to working closely with the blood collection industry to help ensure timely implementation of the new recommendations and we will continue to monitor the safety of the blood supply once this individual risk-based approach is in place.”
Two major blood donation organizations in the United States have already announced that they will follow the FDA’s latest guidance.
The Red Cross said in a statement on its website that it is working on changes to its processes that will allow people who were previously ineligible to give blood to do so in the future. The nonprofit organization added that it would share more information on an implementation timeline in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, the Red Cross webpage on LGBTQ+ donors still says that men who have had sexual contact with another man in the past three months should not give blood. But the webpage will be updated once the Red Cross can implement the new FDA guidance, the nonprofit says.
Vitalant, another nonprofit that has more than 100 blood donation locations throughout the country, also says it is making adjustments to its donation materials and computer systems, and training staff, in order to follow the latest FDA guidance.
“Although we do not have a specific implementation date at this time, we will complete the transition as quickly as possible while ensuring compliance with the final guidance. We look forward to sharing updates about our progress in the months to come,” Vitalant said in a statement on its website.