After pressure from politicians as well as organizations like GLAAD, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revised their recommendations on blood donations by queer men and the women who have sex with them. Previously, that guideline stipulated that men who had sex with men and the women who had sex with them were barred from donating blood or plasma if they had been sexually active in the prior 12 months. A new announcement today shortens that deferral period to three months.
"Victory!" GLAAD, who had started a petition to end the ban, wrote to Twitter. "After weeks of pressure from GLAAD and others [the FDA] is lowering the deferral period on men who have sex with men from 12 months to 3 months. This victory, however, remains imperfect. We'll keep pushing for the ban to be lifted entirely." According to the FDA, the new guidance is being implemented immediately.
This news comes after New York Congressional Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carolyn Maloney wrote a scathing letter Tuesday to the organization calling for the policy's end. Before that letter Senators Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders among others, also penned a missive.
“We urge you to immediately revise the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation that blood donation centers turn away men who have sex with men (MSM) who have been sexually active in the past 12 months,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez and Maloney. “This antiquated policy is not based on current science, stigmatizes the LGBTQIA+ community, and undermines crucial efforts to increase the nation’s blood supply as the United States grapples with the coronavirus crisis.”
A GLAAD petition amassed over 20,000 signatures that were also behind the effort.
"Based on our evaluation of the totality of the scientific evidence available, we are revising the 2015 recommendations for reducing the risk of HIV transmission by blood products including: For male donors who would have been deferred for having sex with another man; the agency is changing the recommended deferral period from 12 months to 3 months.” The FDA wrote in an email. This change will also apply to female donors who would have been deferred for having sex with a man who had sex with another man.
These blood donations would not only help those who need blood and plasma, but could also potentially help as if those who had recovered from the sometimes fatal virus donate, the antibodies still present in their blood could assist others. Recent reports indicate that gay men where excluded from this process.
“LGBTQ Americans can hold their heads up today and know that our voices will always triumph over discrimination,” GLAAD President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. "This is a victory for all of us who raised our collective voices against the discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. The FDA’s decision to lower the deferral period on men who have sex with men from 12 months to 3 months is a step towards being more in line with science, but remains imperfect. We will keep fighting until the deferral period is lifted and gay and bi men, and all LGBTQ people, are treated equal to others.“