FDA: Gay Men Are Now Allowed to Donate Blood

December 21, 2015
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick

For over 30 years, men who have sex with other men could not donate blood no matter how long ago the sexual contact took place. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has changed that policy.

For over 30 years, men who have sex with other men could not donate blood no matter how long ago the sexual contact took place. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has changed that policy.

When AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency virus) first came onto the scene in the 1980’s, it was believed that it was transmitted by men who have sex with other men. While that is one way for the disease to spread, it is not the sole route. Not only was it acknowledged that heterosexuals can transmit HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the initial infection before AIDS, but blood products are a primary way as well.

However, when thousands of blood transfusion recipients were infected with HIV, the FDA made some regulations. In September 1985, in an effort to reduce the risk of transmission, the FDA indefinitely deferred men from donating blood if they had sex with another man since 1977 — even if it was just one time – since this was a period of clustered infections.

  • The MD Magazine HIV/AIDS condition center

On December 21, 2015, the FDA revealed a change in the deferral period in the latest guidance. Men who had sex with other men were once indefinitely deferred from giving blood, but that has been changed to those who have done so within the past 12 months. In other words, a man who has not had sex with a man in the past year can now donate.

“The FDA’s responsibility is to maintain a high level of blood product safety for people whose lives depend on it. We have taken great care to ensure this policy revision is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply,” the FDA’s Acting Commissioner, Stephen Ostroff, MD, said in a news release.

The final guidance also touches on donor deferrals, testing requirements, and other evaluation materials which can be read here.

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