amfAR Welcomes Revised Policy on Blood Donations but Urges FDA To Take Further Steps Toward Equitable Treatment for Gay and Bisexual Men
New policy bars people taking PrEP from donating blood despite negligible risk of HIV infection
Leading research and advocacy organization, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is encouraged by a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed policy change that would allow some gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) to donate blood. It is a step in the right direction that better aligns U.S. policy with that of many other Western democracies that have made similar evidence-based policy shifts in recent years. It does, however, come too late for the many thousands of people who suffered due to historic blood shortages during the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the proposed policy, the previous blanket prohibition would be replaced with a risk assessment to be given to all potential donors, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Those who have not had anal sex with a new partner in the past three months will be allowed to donate.
The discriminatory blood ban has not only disqualified much-needed blood donations, but has contributed to the stigma that prevents many from seeking treatment for HIV in the first place. The new policy is an important step to help ease decades of stigma against sexually active men who have sex with men.
The FDA’s new risk assessment-based policy is far more in line with modern scientific knowledge, which shows there are much more effective ways of determining transmission risk than sexual orientation alone. It still excludes people taking PrEP, who have no more significant risk of HIV infection than those in monogamous relationships. More work is needed to ensure a truly equitable policy.
The FDA first barred men who have sex with men from donating blood in the 1980s, at a time when HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was untreatable. That ban was lifted in 2015 and replaced with a requirement that men who have sex with men abstain from sex for a year before donating blood. The abstinence requirement was subsequently shortened to three months in response to a nationwide shortage of blood due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocacy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $617 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,500 grants to research teams worldwide.