The current FDA policy bans gay and bisexual men from donating blood unless they abstain from sexual relations for a year or more. This is based on a study from 2014 that showed a higher risk in male-to-male (MSM) contact in contracting the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. However, many other countries such as Canada and Great Britain, to name a few, have less than a year of MSM contact regarding their policies for blood donation.
The American Red Cross, which provides over 40 percent of blood across the country, have revised their viewpoint on the current regulations, suggesting the year ban be lowered to a three month ban.
In their statement, they say, “While the Red Cross is regulated by the FDA and cannot unilaterally enact changes in the MSM deferral policy, we continue to work with other U.S. blood collection organizations to gather and provide data to the FDA for additional research and evaluation. We ask advocates and stakeholders to join us in this important dialogue around the existing deferral policy and pathways toward achieving our goal while recognizing the need to always maintain patient safety. Together, we will work toward an inclusive and equitable blood donation process that treats all potential donors with equality and respect, and ensures a safe, sufficient blood supply is readily available for patients in need.”
Technology to remove pathogens, and even current medications to prevent HIV such as PrEP, aid in prevention and re-navigating the stigma that instituted this deferral policy.
Many policies the FDA currently has in place may hold some prejudice, including for any sex workers. While the 2015 change from indefinite to one year was an improvement, more can be made to remove the stigma of sexual orientation from the requirements of giving blood. Let’s hope that even more progress for blood donation is made in 2020.