Gay and Bisexual Men still face blood donation restrictions, despite national shortage of blood

OCEAN CITY, Md. – As the U.S. grapples with a blood shortage that sees blood supply only lasting an average of one day before being put to use in hospitals, Gay and Bisexual men continue to face additional scrutiny and restrictions when donating blood.

The Blood Bank of Delmarva has been sponsoring events throughout the month of January hoping to boost the blood supply, as turnout slows down due to fears from the Omicron Variant. The Blood Bank of Delmarva says they likely won’t reach their goal of beating last year’s record of over 700 people donating, but even a single donation can help to keep up with the demand.

“350 people a day are needed to donate blood on the Delmarva peninsula so we can supply 19 hospitals with blood and blood products that they need,” said Blood Bank of Delmarva Communications Director Antonio Prado.

Prado tells us, FDA guidelines require clinics like his to turn away gay and bisexual men who have been sexually active within a 3 months window.

“That is the regulatory guidance we have to follow their rules,” he said.

The guidelines have previously been changed in the past, down from a lifetime ban enacted in the 1980s, to a 12-month window, to a 3-month window in 2020 in response to pandemic pressure. The Human Rights Commission and local LGBTQ advocates say now is time for another revision, and are pushing to remove the abstinence period altogether.

“There needs to be a lot more thought put into the way the questions are formulated during the process of the interview to ask the appropriate questions, right now they are based on social status as opposed to the risk value,” says Salisbury PFLAG Executive Director Mark Delancey.

He says PLFAG has reached out to advocates to see if they can help to re-write and reform the language, questions, and guidance informing screening tests for blood donations.

Prado tells us those who are able to donate, are already a fraction of the population. Those who donate regularly represent an even thinner margin, and hopes that the rules can allow for all those safely able to donate, to do so.

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