The agency is changing the recommended deferral period for men who have had sex with another man from 12 months to three months. Restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, and other groups considered to be high risk for HIV or AIDS transmission, date back to the 1980’s.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams called the FDA decision “tremendous” and potentially life-saving at a time when overall blood donations have fallen and hospitals face critical shortages as people stay home and blood drives are canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is critically important we have rationally and scientifically based blood donation deferral periods,” Adams said on a call with reporters. “In particular, we know that reducing the deferral period for men who have sex with men can significantly increase life-saving blood donations, prevent drug shortages and help reduce harmful stigma experienced by the MSM community.”
The FDA said the changes would be implemented immediately and and are expected to remain in place after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
The revised guidance also includes people with recent tattoos and piercings and women who have had sex with a gay or bisexual man; the recommended deferral period is now three months versus 12 months.
Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement: “Based on recently completed studies and epidemiologic data, we’ve concluded that the current policies regarding the eligibility of certain donors can be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply.”
Marks said tens of thousands of people could now be eligible to donate for the first time and organizations that previously objected to the referral policy may be more willing to host blood drives.
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