FDA Revises Restrictions on Blood Donations

Graphic by Sidney Stablein, Designer and Social Media Coordinator

Story by News Editor Ellie Youngs

In the 1980s, the United States, as well as multiple other countries, began blocking gay and bisexual men from being able to donate blood as a result of the AIDs epidemic in efforts to prevent the spread of Aids through the blood supply. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration dropped the lifetime ban on these men from donating and replaced the ban with a one year abstinence requirement. In 2020, the FDA shortened the abstinence period to three months, when blood supply was hard to come by due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regulators have not given any indications of negative consequences from these donations under the new guidelines. 

Now, the FDA has drafted another revision to the donation guidelines which would eliminate the abstinence period for gay and bisexual men and instead screen any potential donors eligibility based on a series of questions that assesses their risk of HIV; this screen would be imposed regardless of the donor’s gender. 

Kate Fry, the CEO of America’s Blood Centers says that “we have advocated for a decade now for a move to an individual risk assessment model.” She also emphasizes that all donated blood, regardless of its donor, is carefully screened for HIV and the testing has improved immensely over the years to ensure the safety of the blood supply. The FDA sets requirements and protocols for blood banks in which all blood donors answer questions about their sexual history, drug use, as well as if they’ve acquired any new tattoos or piercings that could contribute to any blood-borne infections. The testing for HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases is a routine part of the donation process to begin with. 

Photo by Artem Podrez on

For years, advocacy groups have deemed the current restrictions on gay and bisexual male blood donors to be discriminatory against the LGBTQ+ community because modern technologies are able to screen blood for infectious diseases. 

Just over the past year, Canada lifted its three month abstinence requirement, and the United Kingdom, France, Greece, Israel, Hungary, Denmark and Brazil have also lifted their restrictions on blood donations. 

These proposed changes will be open for public comment for 60 days and will be expected to be put into effect after the public comment period.