US FDA Proposes Eased Restrictions on Blood Donations from Gay, Bisexual Men

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday proposed revisions to its guidelines to make it easier for gay and bisexual men to donate blood, eliminating a three-month abstinence period before donations.

The restrictions were implemented years ago to prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

In a release posted to the agency’s website, the FDA said under the draft proposals, all donors — regardless of sexual orientation — would be given a questionnaire regarding new partners, sexual history, and certain types of sexual activities.

Any prospective donors who do not report having new or multiple sexual partners and have not engaged in certain practices, such as anal sex, in the previous three months, may be eligible to donate, provided all other eligibility criteria are met.

The proposed new guidelines would allow gay and bisexual men in monogamous, long-term relationships to more easily give blood.

The FDA said the draft proposals were developed after reviewing available information, including data from Britain and Canada, countries with similar HIV epidemiology that have implemented the “gender-inclusive, individual risk-based approach for assessing donor eligibility.”

In the statement, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said, “Maintaining a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood products in the U.S. is paramount for the FDA,” and these proposals will allow the agency to do so.

Under the plan, the donor deferral time periods would stay in place for other HIV risk factors, including for those who have exchanged sex for money or drugs, or have a history of non-prescription injection drug use. 

Any individual who has ever had a positive test for HIV or who has taken any medication to treat HIV infection would continue to be deferred permanently.

The proposed guideline changes released Friday will be open for public comment for 60 days. The agency will then review and consider all comments before finalizing the changes.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press.  

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