A day after the Food and Drug Administration revised its blood donor guidelines on Thursday, significantly easing the restrictions on men who have sex with men, President Trump admitted he “didn’t know anything about” the policy change.
The new FDA guidelines reduce the donation deferral period for sexually active gay and bisexual men from 12 months to three, meaning these otherwise healthy men will now have to abstain from same-sex sexual activity for 90 days before they are eligible to donate blood.
The three-month deferral will also apply to those who recently got tattoos or piercings, as well as former sex workers or injection drug users, who were previously indefinitely banned from donating.
The new guidelines will remain in place throughout the duration of the coronavirus pandemic which has caused “unprecedented challenges” to the national blood supply and will be updated to incorporate public comment within 60 days of the national emergency being lifted.
Asked about the updated guidelines on Friday, President Trump told White House reporters: “No, I didn’t know anything about that. That was done by the FDA – very capable people – at the FDA,” he said before moving on to another question.
Trump says he had nothing today with the FDA recommending that restrictions on gay men donating blood be loosened pic.twitter.com/lFsZLznFCG
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 3, 2020
The FDA has faced mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers and activist groups to change its donation policy.
Donor centers have experienced a sharp drop in blood donations due to social distancing rules and the cancellation of blood drives.
The American Red Cross announced last month it had to cancel 2,700 blood drives – where the organization collects more than 80 percent of its blood donations – due to the pandemic.
The FDA attributed the change in policy to experience in other countries like the United Kingdom and Canada with a three-month deferral and improved testing.
“Progress!” said AIDS activist Peter Staley. “But they still need to include a no-window exception for these plasma studies, using HIV viral load tests to assure safety.”
The policy change came after weeks of pressure from GLAAD and LGBTQ advocacy groups to end the “antiquated ban” for donating blood.
“The FDA cannot let an outdated and discriminatory ban on blood donations from gay and bi men get in the way of potentially life-saving treatment for the country’s painful current health crisis,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis before the FDA’s policy change. “Continuing to enforce this antiquated policy is dangerous, irresponsible, and flies in the face of recommendations from medical experts.”