FDA drops restrictions that prevented gay, bisexual men from donating blood

SAN ANTONIO – After decades of strict federal requirements, many gay and bisexual men will now be able to donate blood.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced this month that it was dropping restrictions that have kept gay and bisexual men on the sidelines for years. The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center hopes the new FDA guidelines will bring in new donors.

Officials with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center said they’re seeing 300 donors daily, but they’re working to double that.

In 2015, the FDA made changes that would become more inclusive. Gay and bisexual men were allowed to donate blood if they had abstained from sexual intercourse for at least 12 months.

In the last several years and during the public health crisis, requirements were further reduced to three months of no sexual intercourse.

The old rules stemmed from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s when there was little known information on the virus.

James Poindexter with Pride San Antonio said the restrictions created a negative stigma around the LGBTQ+ community.

“The idea that we can’t give blood seems kind of, you know, off-putting. And so I think to change the guidelines, to make it more equitable, is what needs to happen,” Poindexter said.

The new FDA ruling will remove the abstinence requirement and ask all donors about their sexual history.

“Regardless of gender or sexual affiliation. So it’s more of an individual risk more than a targeted risk at a certain group of potential donors,” said Audra Taylor with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.

By the fall, donors will see changes to the questionnaire sheet.

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