F.D.A. Relaxes Blood Donation Guidelines for Gay Men and Others

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday that it was reducing the amount of time men who have had sex with men should wait before they give blood, from one year to three months, in hopes of spurring blood donation amid a drastic drop in supply during the coronavirus pandemic.

The earlier 12-month waiting period was intensely criticized as discriminatory and antiquated when the F.D.A. introduced it in 2015, as the agency formally ended a decades-old, lifetime prohibition on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. L.G.B.T.Q. advocates applauded the F.D.A.’s move on Thursday, but said they would work to lift the waiting period entirely.

“L.G.B.T.Q. Americans can hold their heads up today and know that our voices will always triumph over discrimination,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of GLAAD. “This is a victory for all of us who spoke out against the discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.”

The F.D.A. also previously recommended that women who have had sex with men who have had sex with men in the past year not donate blood. The revisions on Thursday lowered that period to three months as well.

The F.D.A. said in a statement that based on recent studies, it had “concluded that current policies regarding certain donor eligibility criteria can be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply.”

The F.D.A. said the new recommendations would remain in place after the pandemic ends.

“Maintaining an adequate blood supply is vital to public health,” the agency said in the statement. “Blood donors help patients of all ages — accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer and other life-threatening conditions.”


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