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FDA to Consider Lifting Gay Blood Donation Deferral

Blood drive

The agency is requesting public comment on easing the 12-month celibacy required before gay and bisexual men can donate blood.

After a month of criticism and pressure from Congress, the Federal Drug Administration will consider lessening or lifting restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

The FDA asked Tuesday for public comments on the current policy that prevents men who have sex with men from donating blood unless they have been celibate for a year.

Officials have 120 days to submit comments--with scientific evidence--for changing the policy.

The deferral is a December update from the previous policy that outright banned any man who had sex with another man from donating blood. Women who had have sex with men who have themselves had sex with other men were similarly banned from donating.

The policy stemmed from the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and received new attention after the Pulse nightclub shooting this summer in Orlando, where 49 LGBTs and allies died. Locals flooded blood banks to donate, only for gay and bisexual men to realize they could not donate.

After Pulse, Congress Democrats, led by Reps. Jared Polis and Alan Grayson, vowed to work on bills that would compel the FDA to seek alternative policies or fund more efficient HIV testing at donation centers.

The agency's openness to easing or even removing the deferral is still somewhat in doubt. The call for comment asks if a deferral period shorter than 12 months would be acceptable or if questions about "specific sexual behaviors" would work.

Sounds like the agency is still trying to catch up with today's highly accurate blood screening technology.

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