Limits on gay men’s blood donations reduced in USA

The FDA (Food and Drug Authority) issues guidance on who can donate blood. During the crisis supply has dropped so there is a need to increase donor numbers.

In response, the FDA has changed the rules for men who have sex with men. Previously FDA guidance demanded a 12 month deferral period between sex (for men, sex with a man, for women, sex with a man who has had sex with men). Yesterday they changed the deferral period to 3 months.

(Incidentally they have also changed the limits for tattoos from 12 months to 3 months.)

The same change was made in 2017 in the UK. While it is not unwelcome it raises other concerns.

Let’s give the FDA credit. Perhaps they considered the 12 month rule was still evidence-based. If so, doesn’t the new change to the rules recklessly endangers blood donation recipients to risks of infection?

On the other hand, maybe the 12 month rule was not evidence-based and the UK was right. In that case they should have changed this as soon as they knew it was baseless. Why let potential donations go to waste while they excluded donations from gay and bisexual men?

Finally, they claim that this change is based on new (uncited) evidence. But the changes are also temporary – limited to the duration of the pandemic – so if the evidence has really changed why is this not a permanent change?

Either way, this is concerning but only time will tell whether this marks a lasting change in blood donation policy.

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