FDA proposes eligibility change for blood donation

DELMARVA – The FDA is proposing a major change to who is eligible to donate blood. Under the proposal, men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with MSM would no longer face a time deferral when donating blood.

Changing Requirements

In 1983, the FDA instated a ban on MSM and women who have sex with MSM, who wished to donate blood. In 2015, the ban was reduced to a 12-month deferral. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, a need for blood pushed the FDA to make the deferral just three months long.

“For decades, federal policies prevented us from reaching some potential donors out there, who are willing to donate blood, due to these policies that determine eligibility based on sexual orientation,” said Blood Bank of Delmarva Communications Specialist, Tony Prado. “At the Blood Bank of Delmarva, we support the use of science-based, gender-inclusive criteria.”

The FDA’s Proposal

Instead of an automatic deferral, would-be donors’ eligibility would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The updated donor questionnaire would ask all donors about if they have had new or multiple sex partners in the three months leading up to the donation. Donors who indicate they fall under that category would be asked about their sexual history, and then deferred.

“Now, we’re looking at a situation where it’s possible that gay and bisexual men would be eligible to donate, under certain criteria,” said Prado. “Women are also asked is it possible that they’ve had sex with a man who’s had sex with another man.”

Looking Ahead

The updated questionnaire would also include the regular asks: Are you experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms? Are you generally in good health? Have you gotten a good night’s rest and a full meal before you came to donate?

The FDA is required to open up the proposal to a 60-day public comment period. Final guidance and materials will be released once a decision has been made on any eligibility changes.

“The change today is another positive step, and will align us with other countries that have already done this already, ahead of the U.S,” said Prado. “We know in this business, blood can only come from human donors, the generosity of people willing to give up their time.”

Categories: Delaware, Health, Local News, Maryland, Virginia