The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ended special requirements for gay blood donors Thursday and will now use the same eligibility questionnaire for all donors regardless of sexual orientation, according to a press release.
Under the new rules, every blood donor will be asked the same questions about recent sexual history and time-based deferrals for men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women will be eliminated, according to the FDA. The agency predicts this will result in a larger pool of blood donors.
Every donor, regardless of sexual orientation, will be asked whether they have had sex with a new sexual partner or multiple partners in the past three months, and those who have will then be asked if they have had anal sex in the last three months; those who say yes to both prompts will be deferred from donating, according to the FDA. Prospective blood donors will be able to give blood regardless of sexual orientation so long as they say no to both prompts.
The FDA barred all gay and bisexual men from donating blood from 1983 to 2015 because they are at an increased risk of HIV, then imposed eligibility questionnaires for gay prospective donors. The changes in policy came alongside improvements in blood-testing technology as well as a push from LGBT activists who viewed restrictions on blood donations as a civil rights abuse.
“The FDA has worked diligently to evaluate our policies and ensure we had the scientific evidence to support individual risk assessment for donor eligibility while maintaining appropriate safeguards to protect recipients of blood products,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a press release.
Marks characterized the policy change as a victory for LGBT people.
“The implementation of these recommendations will represent a significant milestone for the agency and the LGBTQI+ community,” he said. “The FDA is committed to working closely with the blood collection industry to help ensure timely implementation of the new recommendations and we will continue to monitor the safety of the blood supply once this individual risk-based approach is in place.”
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