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FDA considering a change to policy on gay men donating blood, but there’s a catch

A man donates blood
Posed by model (Photo: Shutterstock)

The FDA is reportedly poised to amend its policies around gay and bisexual men donating blood.

In 1983, the agency introduced a lifetime ban on men who had sex with men from donating blood in response to the growing AIDS epidemic.

The FDA amended the ban in 2015 to say that HIV-negative gay or bisexual men who had gone without sex for at least one year were eligible to donate.

Then, in 2020, this was amended again and shortened to 90 days.

Now, following a study, the FDA says it “will likely support a policy transition to individual risk-based donor screening questions for reducing the risk of HIV transmission.”

In other words, they’ll ask potential donors about their sexual history and then make a decision on whether they can donate blood.

Related: This young man told his mom he’s HIV-positive. Here’s how she responded.

Monogamy

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FDA is looking at allowing gay men who are in a committed, monogamous relationship to donate blood, even if they have had sex in recent days or weeks.

All donated blood is tested for HIV and other potential infections; however, there is a small window period of 7-10 days when HIV may be undetectable after someone acquires the virus.

There is no further word yet on how the FDA may change its guidelines. It will take a few more months to consult with other stakeholders and review its study results.

Earlier this year, the FDA conducted the ‘ADVANCE study’, in conjunction with Vitalant, OneBlood and the American Red Cross. Around 1,600 gay and bi men participated. It assessed whether a questionnaire approach proved as effective as a 90-day blanket ban on all queer men.

Some health experts and LGBTQ advocates have been saying for years that the blanket ban on gay men donating blood should be reviewed.

Although this news, coming yesterday on the eve of World AIDS Day, has been welcomed, others think it doesn’t go far enough. For example, there is no indication that the FDA will allow polyamorous gay men on PrEP to donate blood.

Expect more details in early 2023.

Related: 10 inspiring queer celebrities who told the world about thriving with HIV