BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — The FDA is revisiting its guidelines for blood donations. On Jan. 27, a proposed guidance was issued. The potential changes will be more inclusive to gay and bisexual men.
Dave Bentlin, Board President of Prairie Pride Coalition, is hopeful about the potential changes.
“There’s still some areas of that policy that are still not up to speed that should be reconsidered as well to make more people eligible,” said Bentlin.
According to the FDA’s website the proposed guidance would eliminate the deferral time for men who have sex with men or MSM. Under the current guidelines that were implemented in 2020, MSM must abstain from sexual activity for three months before donating.
“Primarily because we were getting into the COVID Pandemic period and blood donations were dropping precipitously and so the FDA decided they needed to relax the policy to get more blood donated and into the hospitals and into the medical facilities,” said Bentlin.
Donation eligibility will lean toward a risk assessment instead of being based on sexual orientation. In 1985 the FDA guideline-recommended blood collections agencies “indefinitely defer male donors who have had sex with another male, even one time, since 1977.” This was during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
In 2015 the guidelines were changed, allowing MSM to donate blood but they had to abstain from sexual activity for 12 months.
“Over the period of years it’s gotten better and they take gradual steps toward making the policy better. But it’s still not a completely equitable policy for the gay and bisexual men,” Bentlin said.
Bentlin was able to donate blood for the first time in 2020.
“It was one of the most satisfying, rewarding opportunities I had as an individual to give back to society, to help someone who needs blood in order to save a life,” he said.
The American Red Cross has been an advocate for policy changes regarding blood donations based on sexual orientation. The following statement was released in response to the guidance recommendations:
Bentlin said in the spring, Prairie Pride Coalition plans to co-sponsor a blood drive with the Red Cross and Bloomington’s Hope Church to raise awareness about the FDA’s blood donation guidelines.