What proposed FDA blood donation rules could mean for Arizona’s gay, bisexual men

The FDA is proposing a new change to guidelines and if they move forward, gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships will be allowed to donate.
Published: Jan. 28, 2023 at 5:53 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The Food and Drug Administration is proposing a change regarding blood donations from gay and bisexual men amid growing demand for blood. The drafted guidelines would remove a three-month abstinence requirement and use a new questionnaire to evaluate individual risks for HIV instead.

Jimmy Thomason, the Executive Director for Aunt Rita’s Foundation, an organization focused on helping the HIV community, said most of the LGBTQ community understood why blood donations from gay men were banned in the 1980s — due to the AIDS epidemic, gay men were not allowed to donate.

In 2015, the FDA replaced the ban with a one-year abstinence requirement. The agency shortened the requirement to a three-month abstinence period in 2020. Thomason said the LGBTQ community would be happy to help with the blood shortage. “We’ve needed help along the way, and we’ve always wanted to help as well. I think this community specifically knows how important it is to help others,” he said.

Vitalant, a non-profit blood donation founded in Phoenix, said it supports the FDA’s drafted guidelines. In a statement, they said, “We believe that donor eligibility criteria should be based on the latest available scientific data, not sexual orientation, and support the FDA’s proposed guidance for an individual risk assessment for reducing the risk of HIV in the blood supply.”

The non-profit said it also served as the primary investigator for an FDA-funded study called ADVANCE, where several agencies, including LGBTQ+ organizations and enrolled participants, collected data to help the FDA evaluate other options for the ‘men who have sex with men (MSM) policy currently in place. If the FDA moves forward with its guidelines, gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships will be allowed to donate if eligible. “Nothing is an overnight thing, so this is another step in the right direction. So we have to celebrate every step in the right direction,” said Thomason.

The FDA said the questionnaire will not “compromise” the safety of the blood supply. The agency will be taking public comment for 60 days before finalizing plans. To take a look a look at the proposed guidelines, click here.