The American Red Cross has issued a statement urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce the restrictions for gay and bisexual men to give blood.
The Red Cross is asking the FDA to “consider reducing its deferral time for men who have sex with men (MSM) from twelve to three months.”
Currently, gay and bisexual men are prohibited from donating blood if they have had sexual contact with another man within the past 12 months. That policy, begun in December 2015, replaced a decades-old regulation banning MSM and transgender women from donating blood at all.
The Red Cross calls its suggested revision of current policy a “scientifically-based interim step” while further options are evaluated. The statement notes a 3-month policy would be consistent with other leading countries like Great Britain and Canada.
The health organization also recommends “expanded use of new technologies to work toward the elimination of donor eligibility questions that would no longer be necessary.”
Underscoring a commitment to “ensure that every blood recipient receives safe, lifesaving blood,” the statement declares that donating blood “should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation.”
“We are committed to working toward achieving this goal,” adds the Red Cross.
In a statement to NewNowNext, the FDA characterized the current 12-month ban as “a behavior-based policy, not one based upon sexual orientation.”
The FDA’s statement goes on to note that the 2015 policy change was prompted, in part, by reviewing studies in blood donors which “showed that a history of male-to-male sexual contact was associated with a 62-fold increased risk for being HIV positive, whereas the increase in risk for a history of multiple sexual partners of the opposite sex in the last year was 2.3-fold.”
The FDA added, “While acknowledging at the time that the change to a 12-month deferral was less than hoped for by some, the FDA considered this to be a first step in the process of evaluating and progressing its blood donor deferral policies for all donors.”
For more information about current blood donation policy in the U.S., check out this Q&A on the FDA’s official site.