There had been a lifetime ban in place, instituted during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, when there wasn’t a simple way to detect its presence in blood. The change to a one year abstinence requirement for men who have sex with men came in December of 2015, when the FDA set new guidelines.
Women who have had sex with a man in the past twelve months who himself has had sex with another man in the past twelve months are also banned from donating for one year.
“When FDA issued the December 2015 guidance, it noted that while the December 2015 guidance represents FDA’s current thinking on the subject, FDA was committed to continuing to reevaluate and update blood donor deferral policies as new scientific information becomes available,” they said in their statement. “FDA also noted that, because the process must be data-driven, FDA could not specify a time for when future policy changes might occur.”
“As part of the effort to continue to assess its donor deferral policies, FDA is opening this docket to provide a mechanism for the public to submit additional information regarding potential blood donor deferral policy options,” they continued. “Specifically, we invite interested persons to submit to the docket comments supported by scientific evidence regarding possible revisions to FDA’s blood donor deferral policies to reduce the risk of HIV transmission by blood and blood products. FDA requests that commenters provide scientific evidence, such as data from research, to support any suggestions. Additionally, comments are invited regarding the design of potential studies to evaluate the feasibility or effectiveness of such alternative deferral policy options.”
Political pressure has continued to build over the years, calling for a change to the policy that many medical experts and lawmakers have called discriminatory. That conversation has grown louder after the mass shooting in Orlando at the LGBTQ nightclub Pulse.
Many of the friends of the victims of the attack were unable to donate blood, even as the city called for donations. There were rumors that an Orlando blood bank was rebelling and allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but those reports were untrue.
Blood donation policies vary from country to country, with some having no deferral for donation from men who have sex with men and others with a lifetime ban.
The United States is not the only country to be reassessing their blood donation policy for gay and bi men, and the women who love them.
France recently softened their blood donation policy, which now matches that of America’s.