The American Red Cross is calling for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ease it’s policy on blood donation for gay men. Finally!
Up until December 2015, the FDA banned sexually active gay men and transgender women from donating blood altogether for decades. In regards to transgender women an FDA spokesperson at the time said that their policy is to “designate by sex at birth, that is all there is to it.” That policy was revised to shorten the deferral period to 12 months after sexual contact. An update which was based on improved testing methods for HIV, which have shortened the window for being able to detect the virus.
For transgender women the “Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products” states, “In the context of the donor history questionnaire, FDA recommends that male or female gender be taken to be self-identified and self-reported.”
The American Red Cross is now recommending a three-month ban, which is the same policy used in Great Britain and Canada.
“As a scientifically-based interim step, the Red Cross encourages the Food and Drug Administration to consider reducing its deferral time for men who have sex with men (MSM) from twelve to three months while further options are evaluated for the United States,” a statement from Red Cross said. “This is consistent with policy changes made by several other countries including Canada and Great Britain. We also strongly support the expanded use of new technologies to work toward elimination of donor eligibility questions that would no longer be necessary.”
Last year the American Red Cross announced that it was facing a critical shortage of blood, and came under scrutiny for still denying gay and bisexual men, and in some cases — transgender women. The organization offered $5 Amazon gift cards to those who donated that August in an attempt to boost blood supplies — this offer was obviously not extended to inelligible gay men.
The American Red Cross has shown a willingness to change the policy, but they are restricted by the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s stance on blood donation.
Although the policy would be similar to those in Great Britain and Canada, LGBTQ+ people within those two countries say that the three-month ban is not enough. Recently health care providers in London have organized to stage an “illegal blood bank” to protest England’s sexually active gay men from donating blood.