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International News: U.S. Food and Drug Administration eases blood donor restrictions on gay, bisexual men

Posted: Monday, January 30, 2023. 8:38 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Axios reports that on Friday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled new guidance Friday to relax blood donor restrictions for gay and bisexual men.

It proposed to relieve “discriminatory” restrictions set during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s while also maintaining an adequate blood supply, according to Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

Under current guidelines, “a man who has protected sex with another man in the three months prior to a blood donation cannot be a donor, but a man or woman who has unprotected sex with multiple partners of the opposite sex over the same time period remains eligible,” according to the American Medical Association (AMA). Lesbian and bisexual women do not have a deferral period.

The FDA’s proposed guidance gets rid of that time-based deferral for some men who have sex with men: “Instead, we recommend assessing donor eligibility using gender-inclusive, individual risk-based questions relevant to HIV risk.”

The current donor history questionnaire would be revised to ask all prospective donors about their sexual history in the past three months, meaning gay and bisexual men would not be singled out.

The FDA is expected to make the guidance official after a period of public comment. Men who have sex with men that are not in monogamous relationships would still be subject to the three-month deferral.

The guidance proposes more inclusive language, saying that if “an individual” had sex with a “new sexual partner” or multiple in the three months before a blood donation, as well as had anal sex in that same period, they are not allowed to donate.

Approximately 20 percent of community blood centres across the U.S. have a one-day supply or less as of Friday morning, according to the America’s Blood Centers’ daily tracker. If the FDA lifts the three-month deferral period, the annual blood supply would increase by two to four percent annually, according to the Williams Institute, a research centre at the UCLA School of Law.

“Maintaining a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood products in the U.S. is paramount for the FDA, and this proposal for an individual risk assessment, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, will enable us to continue using the best science to do so,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf in a statement.

 

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