More gay and bisexual men can donate blood under new FDA rules

Most gay and bisexual men who are in monogamous relationships with other men will no longer need to abstain from sex to donate blood.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a new regulation that will broaden the pool of homosexual and bisexual men eligible to donate blood. Under the revised criteria, all prospective donors will have to undergo individual risk assessments, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Those who have engaged in anal intercourse with new or multiple partners within the preceding three months will be asked to delay their donation. Homosexual and bisexual men in committed relationships with other men will no longer have to abstain from sex in order to give blood.

Before the new regulation, the FDA only allowed blood donations from males who had not had intercourse with other men in the preceding three months. The FDA’s ban on blood donations from men who have intercourse with other men dates back to the 1980s, at the height of the AIDS pandemic when HIV was still largely unknown.

The new regulations align with those in Canada and the United Kingdom and were initially recommended by the FDA in January. Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, has described the new regulation as a “significant milestone” for the LGBTQI+ community. However, he stressed that the FDA will continue to monitor the integrity of the blood supply.

The revised criteria will also require those using HIV prevention or treatment drugs to wait before donating blood. While the FDA’s decision has been welcomed as a step towards inclusivity, some advocacy groups have argued that the new regulations still discriminate against men who have sex with men and that the risk assessments are unnecessary and stigmatizing.