The FDA plans to issue the updated blood donation screening guidelines in coming months, according to the Wall Street Journal. Current FDA guidance bans men who have had sex with men in the last three months from donating blood and plasma.
GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is responding to news that the FDA will allow more gay and bisexual men, and other LGBTQ people in relationships, to donate blood without restrictions.
“While today’s reports of an overdue move from the FDA is an important step, our community and leading medical experts will not stop advocating for the FDA to lift all restrictions against qualified LGBTQ blood donor candidates,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “As LGBTQ leaders and medical experts have been saying for years: bans and restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men are rooted in stigma, not science. Giving one set of rules to some people, and another set of rules to others, based purely on identity, is blatant discrimination.”
Ellis said the fight isn’t over yet, though.
“This fight is not over until all LGBTQ Americans who want to donate blood are met with the same protocols as other Americans. All potential blood donors, whose donations could save lives, should be treated equally. There is no excuse for choosing stigma over science in 2022,” Ellis said.
Previously, the FDA banned all gay and bi men from donating. In 2015, the ban was lifted, but potential donors needed to abstain from sex for one year. In 2020, when the U.S. was facing severe blood shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal officials shortened the abstinence requirement to three months. Earlier this year, the Red Cross declared its first-ever national crisis as the supply of blood dropped to dangerously low levels.
THE FACTS ABOUT BLOOD DONATIONS FROM GAY AND BISEXUAL MEN, AND OTHER LGBTQ PEOPLE:
GLAAD is among organizations and leaders who have consistently advocated for an end to restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, and other LGBTQ people. Two years ago, GLAAD released an open letter penned by over 500 medical professionals responding to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) revised recommendations on gay and bisexual men, and other LGBTQ people, from donating blood by reducing the deferral period from 12 months to 3 months. In the letter, the hundreds of signed medical professionals from across the United States “call on the FDA to reverse its unscientific and discriminatory ban against men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood in favor of risk-based screening.” The letter also notes that “the FDA’s recent decision to shorten the prohibition window to 3 months is a step in the right direction, [but] it does not go far enough in reversing the unscientific ban.”
Leading medical organizations have debunked the ban on LGBTQ blood donations for years. The American Public Health Association has stated that the current ban “is not based in science but appears to be modeled after other countries’ choices and fears.” The American Red Cross has also spoken out, noting that “blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation.” The American Medical Association called on the FDA to update its guidelines to be more in line with science: “We urge the FDA to take future steps to remove the categorical restrictions for blood donations by MSM so they are instead based on a person’s individual risk, consistent with the latest scientific evidence, to ensure blood donation criteria is equitably applied across all people.” A 2014 study by the Williams Institute estimated that if the ban were to be lifted, an additional 360,000 men would likely donate, which could help save the lives of more than a million people.