FDA To End Full Ban On Blood Donations From Gay, Bisexual Men

As things currently stand, any man who has had sex with another man at any point in the last three decades is generally forbidden from donating blood in the U.S. But the head of the Food and Drug Administration announced today that it will begin updating the restrictions so that gay and bisexual men who’ve been celibate for a year will be allowed to donate.

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg explains that the agency has “carefully examined and considered the available scientific evidence relevant to its blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men, including the results of several recently completed scientific studies and recent epidemiologic data.”

As a result of that review, the FDA will now move forward in the process of recommending a change to the policy so that men who’ve had sexual contact with other men will be allowed to donate blood if it’s been a full year since their last sexual contact with a male.

Hamburg says this change would effectively treat these men the same as policies for donors considered to be at an increased risk for HIV infection.

Because the wheels of government turn slowly, there is no specific timeline given for when the all-out ban will be lifted. Instead, Hamburg says that the FDA will go through the process in the coming year of issuing draft guidance and seeking public comment, before issuing a final policy change.

The American Red Cross, the AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks), and America’s Blood Centers, along with the American Medical Association, have previously called for a revision of the ban on donations from gay and bisexual men.

Some critics of the ban believe that the one-year celibacy requirement is still too restrictive, as it continues to prevent perfectly healthy men in monogamous relationships with longtime partners from donating blood — or forces them to lie about their sexual history if they do donate.