On December 21, the FDA updated its blood donor deferral policy. Under the new revisions, gay and bisexual men will now be able to donate blood after waiting 12 months since their last sexual contact with another man. The new policy lifts the lifetime prohibition on blood donation by gay and bisexual men, which was enacted in 1983 during the AIDS epidemic.
The FDA stated their decision was “based on the most recent scientific evidence.” For years, the FDA conducted joint studies with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.
“The FDA’s responsibility is to maintain a high level of blood product safety for people whose lives depend on it,” said the FDA’s Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, MD. “We have taken great care to ensure this policy revision is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply.”
The FDA’s new recommendations align with other nations, such as the UK and Australia, which also have 12-month deferrals for men who have sex with men (MSM).
In a joint statement, the American Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers, and AABB, three organizations involved in blood banking, praised the new revisions, affirming they “…support the FDA’s decision to change the MSM blood donation policy from a lifetime deferral to a one-year deferral.”
“Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the U.S. population,” stated Peter Marks, MD, PhD, Deputy Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “We will continue to actively conduct research in this area and further revise our policies as new data emerge.”