Conversations have come to light about the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) plans to amend their policies on blood donations from queer men. The proposed plan outlines that queer men who are in monogamous relationships will be able to donate blood, without abstaining from sex.
Previously, the guidelines announced in 2015 were that queer men could donate blood after abstaining from sex for a year. However, the time period of a year was shortened by federal officials to three months in response to blood shortages during the pandemic.
The FDA plans to issue the new guidelines in the coming months. In order to successfully donate blood, queer men will be required to complete an individualized risk assessment. While assessment content is still being developed, the questionnaire will inquire about potential donors’ sexual partners witthin the past three months, according to an FDA official.
If individuals completing the assessment state that they haven’t had any new sexual partners within three months, they will be able to donate blood. However, those who say otherwise will be asked if they’ve engaged in anal intercourse. Those who state that they’ve engaged in anal intercourse will be required to wait three months before donating blood.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that unprotected anal sex provides a higher risk of HIV transmission. Additionally, FDA officials claim that three months is an enough time for a sexually active potential donor to wait, as they would be able to detect an HIV infection.
While this a step closer towards queer men being able to donate blood, this screening step still discriminates against queer men. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and other LGBTQ+ advocacy groups have pushed for these discriminatory blood donation policies to end. With the pandemic leading to blood shortages across the United States, more organizations and lawmakers have called for this ban on queer men’s blood donations to end as well.
“It is a completely outdated policy that doesn’t reflect our current ability to test blood for HIV or the medical science around HIV,” said Sarah Warbelow, HRC’s legal director, for The Wall Street Journal.
With advances in technology and medical science around sexual health and testing for HIV, the ban remains a discriminatory and redundant barrier. It was once only felt by queer men, but is now felt by all across the country when the pandemic led to blood shortages.
“This is a crisis of the FDA’s own making,” stated Jay Franzone for NBC News. The LGBTQ+ advocate remained abstinent for a year in order to donate blood in January 2017. “They can change the policy — even temporarily — and they can do so today. The only thing stopping them is bigotry and fear.”