FDA Urged To Lift Restrictions On Blood Donations From Gay Men During Coronavirus Pandemic

A nurse takes blood from a subject.
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LGBTQ advocacy groups have called on the American government to relax restrictions that currently prevent gay and bisexual men from donating blood. This push comes as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has created a critical shortage of blood donations, per The Hill.

On Friday, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) launched a Nationbuilder petition to remove the rules, calling the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current standards “antiquated” and “absurd.” The FDA currently requires that men who have had sex with men in the last 12 months face a year-long deferral period before being allowed to donate blood.

“Holding on to an antiquated, discriminatory ban during these uncertain times is absurd. The FDA needs to put science above stigma. Gay men, bisexual men, and men who have sex with men want to give blood and should be able to contribute to help their fellow Americans,” the petition reads.

The launch of the petition came after Surgeon General Jerome Adams called on healthy Americans to donate blood, according to a CNN report.

“You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

Adams urged younger generations to contribute, and added that a single donation could save as many as three lives. The American Red Cross announced on March 17 that an “unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations” has resulted in 86,000 fewer blood donations this year, causing a crisis in terms of the blood supply.

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GLAAD communications director Mathew Lasky lamented that the current rules prevent many in the LGBTQ community from helping with the shortage. Lasky estimated that there could be an extra 600,000 pints of blood available per year if the 12-month deferral period was lifted.

“We really see it as a holdover of a discriminatory policy from a time long past. We think that it’s important to push the FDA to rethink the policy around this because it’s not based in current science.”

The policy was put in place in 2015, when the FDA lifted a lifetime ban from those demographics — a ban that had been in place since 1983. The original policy was put in place during the HIV/AIDS crisis, prior to many modern advancements in screening and testing for the virus. The current standards are in line with blood policies in other countries such as Australia and the Republic of Ireland. Gay and bisexual men make up 69 percent of new HIV infections, according to HIV.gov statistics.