FDA eases blood donation guidelines for gay men, LGBTQ+ community

The Food and Drug Administration has eased its blood donation guidelines for gay men, and others in the LGBTQ+ community to give.

“We are still treating patients in all other capacities and having a blood shortage is never, never good,” said Dr. Runjhun Misra, a Bay Area internal medicine specialist.

The Red Cross reported that since the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 2,700 blood drives have been canceled and their worry is that the nation could be heading toward a severe shortage.

"These changes will potentially allow more individuals to donate and help ensure blood collection organizations across the country continue to meet patient needs throughout this pandemic and beyond," Red Cross said in a statement. 

The FDA announced Thursday that it has reduced the amount of time that males have deferred having sex with another man from 12 to 3 months.

The same reduction in time has been made for female donors who would have been deferred for having sex with a man who had sex with another man.

For those with recent tattoos and piercings, the agency is changing the recommended deferral period from 12 months to three months.

“The FDA seems to be stuck in 1985 when we didn’t know that much about HIV,” said Representative Scott Wiener.

The California State Senator said that the changes still aren’t enough because the rules still restrict a certain class of people at a time when science has proven that HIV can infect and spread among anyone and not just gay men.

“When we did not know that much about HIV, when we viewed HIV as only a disease affecting gay men and intravenous drug users, when there was not good testing,” Wiener told KTVU on Thursday.

But that’s not the case anymore, which is why Wiener and others have been pushing for the FDA for a complete lift on the ban on gay men donating blood.

Wiener said he would like to donate but still wouldn’t qualify even with the new FDA criteria, but is doing what he can to contribute to blood donation anyway by sponsoring the Give for a Gay blood donation event at the Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 7.

Wiener said San Francisco Mayor London Breed will give on his behalf.

He also said that while all slots for next Tuesday’s donation drive are filled, there will be another on April 30.

Find a Red Cross blood drive donation center