The City of West Hollywood is getting the word out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued proposed guidance in late January 2023 to ease restrictions on blood donations by men who have sex with men. Restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, as well as other groups considered to be at high risk for HIV/AIDS, date back to the early 1980s.
The FDA “donor deferral policy” for men who have sex with men (MSM) prohibits them from donating blood for three months following their most recent sexual contact. The new proposed policy would eliminate the time-based restrictions on men who have sex with men (and their female partners) and, instead, screen potential donor eligibility based on a series of questions that assess HIV risk, regardless of gender. Anyone taking medications to treat or prevent HIV, including PrEP, would not be eligible.
The new proposed guidelines are anticipated to go into effect after a public comment period of 60 days. The FDA will then review those comments and issue a final ruling, expected later this year. For more details and to submit comments, visit the FDA website.
“While this is nowhere near the victory that the LGBTQ community has been fighting for, the FDA proposed guidance is a step in the right direction,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore John M. Erickson. “For decades, there have been discriminatory blanket restrictions on who can give blood. These policies are still in effect and to this day they still discriminate against LGBTQ people. Leading medical groups, such as the American Medical Association have said these exclusions are unnecessary given advances in testing blood for infectious disease pathogens. I urge community members to provide comment to the FDA. Our blood supply should be guided by a science-based approach that supports people in donating, instead of furthering stigma and turning people away. I’m proud that West Hollywood has been on record for years urging the FDA to update its blood donor guidelines, especially with our involvement with the ADVANCE study that led to part of these changes. Finally, we’re beginning to see movement on this issue.”
For many years, the FDA banned any man who had sex with another man once since 1977 from donating blood. These discriminatory policies were adopted in 1983 in direct response to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the time. In 2006, the American Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers, and the American Association of Blood Banks reported to the FDA that this ban was medically and scientifically unwarranted, but it remained in place. In 2015, the policy was finally reduced from an indefinite deferral period to a 12-month deferral. The policy was further reduced to three months in April 2020 to address the urgent and immediate need for blood during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021 and 2022, the City of West Hollywood participated in community outreach for the ADVANCE Study (“Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility”), a pilot study aimed at research and collaboration to make blood donation a more inclusive process while maintaining the safety of the blood supply. Study enrollment concluded on September 30, 2022 and researchers from the participating blood centers – Vitalant, OneBlood, and the American Red Cross – continue to share study data with the FDA. For more information about the ADVANCE Study, please visit https://advancestudy.org.