FDA changes guidelines, allowing gay men to donate blood with less restrictions

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Currently, there is a nationwide blood shortage, triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak. Hundreds of blood drives around the country have been canceled causing a decline in U.S. blood supplies.

The Food and Drug Administration released a new policy to address the immediate need for blood donations. A statement released regarding the guideline changes said, “We want to do everything we can to encourage more blood donations, which includes revisiting and updating some of our existing policies to help ensure we have an adequate blood supply, while still protecting the safety of our nation’s blood supply.”

The FDA’s previous rules prohibited males who had sexual contact with another male from donating blood for 12 months. With eased limits, now gay or bisexual man can donate blood if they have no had sexual contact with a male for three months.

The FDA implemented previous and current guidelines to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV through blood. These restrictions also affect females who have slept with a male that has had sexual contact with another male, and people who recently got piercings or tattoos.

This has been a law that’s been in place since the HIV/AIDS epidemic right and the reason they did it was because of the misnomer that if you’re gay you have HIV you’re living with HIV. 

Deric Kimler, Executive Director, Central Illinois Friends

Data collected in 2017 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are the populations most affected by HIV in the U.S.

Pastor Josh Lee, with Imago Dei Church said the disease does not pick on gender, race or social economic statuses.

“What’s the difference between a heterosexual and homosexual going and giving blood there is zero difference?” Kimler asked. He said heterosexuals can also contract HIV.

Chris Wade, a member of the LGBTQ Community, said the new guidelines are still discriminatory, but show there is progress being made.

“The FDA has recognized that we’re in a crisis situation, unfortunately it’s gotten to this, a crisis that we’ve had to reconsider this, but I think the FDA is leading a step in the right direction,” Wade said.

Others agree with Wade, but said the guidelines are still a slap in the face.

“Gay men who are in monogamous or committed relationships or who are married now that means they just can’t have sex for three months,” Lee said. “I would probably not go abstinent just so I could go donate blood. I would say that my hope in having these conversations is that we would change the law and not have to change my actions or my life.”

Kimler said even with an ease of limits, a lot of people still will not have the opportunity to give blood. “It’s just a shame that you eliminate a large population of very giving individuals because of fear of stigma,” he said.

There’s a lot of folks in the LGBT community who want to support and provide blood to the supply, we’re good people.

Chris Wade, Member of the LGBTQ community

Wade adds that the restrictions for gay men in general need to be repealed. While the FDA’s guideline changes were implemented immediately not all organizations followed suit.

WMBD reached out to multiple representatives from American Red Cross, they declined to comment on the FDA’s new policy. Representatives from also, a representative from UnityPoint Pekin said they will not be changing their guidelines at this time.

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