FDA’s New Blood Donation Guidelines for LGBTQ Men

After a blood shortage caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, and rising pressure from the public and lawmakers, the Food and Drug Administration revised guidelines on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.   

The American Red Cross reported in March that it had canceled nearly 2700 blood drives due to the outbreak, leading Surgeon General Jerome Adams to call all healthy Americans to donate. Previously, the FDA had banned donation from men who had sex with another man within the last year. Under the new guidelines, that deferral was reduced to 3 months for the length of the coronavirus pandemic. The 3-month deferral guideline was also extended to other groups of people who had formerly been banned from donating, including people who recently got tattoos and piercings, former injectable drug users, and sex workers.  

The Red Cross stated in November that it was in favor of a 3-month deferral and asked the FDA to reevaluate. On March 26, 17 senators, including Oregon’s senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, sent the FDA a letter urging the FDA to revise its guidelines, citing the urgency of a national shortage and a need to follow scientific and non-discriminatory reasoning.  

The announcement mirrors similar rules in Canada and the UK, which the FDA said led to the decision. After the coronavirus emergency has ended, the FDA will reassess the guidelines and open a 60-day public comment period.

By Kevin Davenport-Rackham