FDA issuing a proposal guidance to ease restrictions on blood donations for gay and bisexual men

Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 6:47 PM CST
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - The FDA’s current policy was last updated in 2020. It states gay and bisexual men can donate blood if they haven’t had sexual contact with other men for at least three months.

These types of restrictions have been rewritten only twice since they were implemented during the 1980s AIDs crisis. The proposed policy would eliminate time-based restrictions and instead ask questions that assess HIV risk regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

The founders of Rural Oklahoma Pride said they hope the restrictions will be lifted.

“They thought that HIV was just in the homosexual community. But I mean it goes far beyond the homosexual community, it goes to different races, and different genders it’s not just in one community and to isolate us restricts much-needed blood,” Bryan said.

Blood banks currently screen every blood donation, for things like HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis, and activists say screening donors themselves should focus more on risk and habits and less on sexual orientation.

“I think we need regulations for blood, but that’s what we do all those tests for on the blood, we are testing the blood from the time it’s collected before it ever reached the recipient the donors are tested. They definitely don’t isolate and say if you are doing drugs, which many people do and they don’t restrict drug users. IV drug users would be a high risk for HIV,” Bryan said.

A big factor in the restrictions has always been a need for blood. The policy was revised during a massive blood shortage during COVID, and families like the Poudriers know all too well how a donation can save a life.

Their son Theodore was born with meconium aspiration and needed surgery a couple of days after birth.

“We find out a little bit late that, everything was successful and thanks to the blood donors that have provided blood for babies, children, and anyone in need. So he was still in the hospital for about a month then we got to bring him home, and now we just celebrated his one-year birthday,” Poudrier said.

Jason said after his son’s experience he started thinking about the last time he gave blood and decided to become a donor to give back and help save other lives.

“And I think of him and I also think of when we were up there and the NICU it was full of other babies,” Poudrier said.

Bryan is also a registered nurse and said when someone is in dire need of blood they are not asking where it came from.

“I never heard a patient look up at me and say, oh are they a gay person’s blood, was this a black, white, Hispanic, person’s blood. Because last time I looked at the blood upon appearance it was still red, it didn’t quite turn out any other color,” Bryan said.

Anyone taking medication to treat or prevent HIV including PreEp would not be eligible.

The change is expected to take effect after a public comment period.