Blood banks want more gay donors but some restrictions still exist

In 2023, the FDA eased some of the restrictions that impacted gay and bisexual donors.

DENVER — This Pride Month, blood banks are hoping to see more donors. 

In 2023, the FDA relaxed some of its restrictions to allow more gay and bisexual men to donate blood. Some blood banks did not implement this policy until 2024. 

Dylan Bowen, an employee at Vitalant, was eagerly waiting. 

“Working in this industry understanding the rules and expectations gives me a different perspective to be a little more understanding that things take time,” Bowen said. “But it is very relieving that we’re finally here.” 

Bowen is part of the gay community that became eligible to donate blood and plasma in 2023. Since then, he has been donating as much as he can. 

“I’ve donated platelets probably 15+ times since I was eligible,” he said. 

But not everyone in the gay community is able to donate. 

“Well, right now there’s a restriction for donating blood for anyone who’s taking HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis,” said Dr. Sarah Rowan, an infectious disease physician at Denver Health. 

The FDA does not allow anyone who is taking PrEP to donate blood or plasma for fear of a potential false negative. Dr. Rowan believes the ban may be unnecessary. 

“I think the science has caught up and I think folks who are taking PrEP are less likely to have HIV than folks who aren’t taking it who might have some potential exposure. Personally, I think it’s time to rethink the restrictions because I do think that people can be on PrEP and safely donate blood and blood products,” she said.  “I think if they lift this restriction, then there would be more blood donors and less stigma.” 

Bowen is grateful for the opportunity. Vitalant’s blood donation center is near and dear to his heart — his mother worked here for a long time. 

“My mom was a phlebotomist,” he said.  “She ended up being a blood donor recipient herself. Sadly, she just passed in January. So I think this would be such a beautiful way to honor what she did here. She left behind a legacy.”

This is a legacy Bowen hopes to carry on as he urges more people in the community to give. 

“I encourage a lot of my friends who are gay to donate, we’ve had a lot of interest from the group, from the community so far,” he said. “The more people we can connect, the more lives can be saved.”

Those with Vitalant said they actually led research efforts and provided data to the FDA to make those eligibility updates. They said they are working on a marketing campaign to get more people within the gay and bisexual community through their doors. 

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