The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it has done so It officially ended the agency’s widespread ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, a longstanding policy that has been decried as discriminatory.
Instead, the FDA is finalizing guidelines that include a questionnaire for all donors intended to learn about their recent sexual activity. More targeted questions will focus on whether someone has had new or multiple sexual partners and had anal sex in the past three months.
Potential donors who have recently had sex will be rejected under these screening criteria.
The revised policy would also bar blood donations from people taking oral PrEP to prevent HIV infection, a restriction the agency said was designed to avoid false negative results during a blood test.
In the revised policy, the FDA took its cues from Canada and the United Kingdom, which have both adopted similar approaches. The American agency was working on change for months She said she also reviewed data from other countries and a US study examining the method.
Why it matters: There is a lack of blood
There is an urgent need to donate blood. They fell during and after the pandemic with drop in blood drives at school and in the office.
The old rules were much more restrictive in examining gay and bisexual men. The update allows blood donation companies to use an evidence-based method to reduce the risk of HIV transmission while also increasing donations.
said Kate Frey, CEO of American Blood Centers, which represents the independent blood centers that provide 60 percent of the nation’s donations.
BACKGROUND: PrEP criteria have been criticized
GLAAD, an LGBTQI+ advocacy group, hailed the change as the end of a “dark and discriminatory past rooted in fear and homophobia”. But the organization criticized the FDA’s decision to turn away donors who take PrEP drugs, saying the measure would add “unnecessary stigma.”
“The bias embedded in this policy may actually cost lives,” GLAAD said in a statement Thursday.
The agency said PrEP drugs were effective in reducing the spread of HIV through sexual contact, but warned that blood transfusions may carry a higher risk of infection.
“Although HIV is not sexually transmitted by individuals with undetectable viral levels, this does not apply to blood transfusions for HIV because blood transfusions are done intravenously, and blood transfusions involve significant amount of blood compared to sexual exposure,” the Food and Drug Administration said in a news release Thursday.
Next step: Blood centers will update the policies
Vitalent, a blood donation company, said it will adopt the agency’s revised screening rules by updating its donor history questionnaire, computer systems and staff training.