(New York, NY - Thursday, May 11, 2023) GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is responding to news that the FDA will allow more gay and bisexual men to donate blood based on individual-risk-based questions rather than sexual orientation or gender identity. The recommendations will become the screening standard for all individuals seeking to donate blood, foregoing the decades-old ban on gay and bisexual donors and expanding the pool of potential donors as the national blood supply reached crisis-level shortages.
According to the FDA, screening questions will be the same for every donor, regardless of sexual orientation, sex, or gender. The new guidance recommendations reflect the agency's current thinking on donor deferral recommendations for individuals with an increased risk of transmitting HIV infection: "We recommend eliminating the screening questions specific to men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with MSM. Instead, we recommend assessing donor eligibility using the same individual risk-based questions relevant to HIV risk for every donor regardless of sex or gender."
However, a three-month deferral for individuals adhering to a prescription for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) remains in place. PrEP is 99% effective in preventing HIV. The FDA notes, "…the available data demonstrate that the use of PrEP and PEP may delay detection of HIV by currently licensed screening tests for blood donations, potentially resulting in false negative results."
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, issued the following statement below and on Twitter:
"The FDA's decision to follow science and issue new recommendations for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, who selflessly donate blood to help save lives, signals the beginning of the end of a dark and discriminatory past rooted in fear and homophobia. While today's guidance is an important step in the right direction, the deferral period for individuals on PrEP, an FDA-approved drug proven to prevent HIV acquisition, continues to erect barriers to LGBTQ blood donors. Placing potential blood donors taking PrEP in a separate line from every other donor adds unnecessary stigma. The bias embedded into this policy may, in fact, cost lives. GLAAD urges the FDA to continue to prioritize science over stigma and treat all donors and all blood equally."
The updated guidance follows a period where the FDA reviewed public comments that were taken into consideration before the agency released the new guidelines. The FDA is also recommending that blood donation centers revise donor education materials, questionnaires, and accompanying materials, along with revisions to donor requalification and product management procedures.
FACTS ABOUT BLOOD DONATIONS FROM GAY AND BISEXUAL MEN AND OTHER LGBTQ PEOPLE:
GLAAD is among organizations and leaders who have consistently advocated for an end to restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men and other LGBTQ people. Three years ago, GLAAD released an open letter penned by over 500 medical professionals responding to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) revised recommendations on gay and bisexual men and other LGBTQ people from donating blood by reducing the deferral period from 12 months to 3 months. In the letter, the hundreds of signed medical professionals from across the United States "call on the FDA to reverse its unscientific and discriminatory ban against men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood in favor of risk-based screening." The letter also notes that "the FDA's recent decision to shorten the prohibition window to 3 months is a step in the right direction, [but] it does not go far enough in reversing the unscientific ban."
Leading medical organizations have debunked the ban on LGBTQ blood donations for years. The American Public Health Association has stated that the current ban "is not based in science but appears to be modeled after other countries' choices and fears." The American Red Cross has also spoken out, noting that "blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation." The American Medical Association called on the FDA to update its guidelines to be more in line with science: "We urge the FDA to take future steps to remove the categorical restrictions for blood donations by MSM so they are instead based on a person's individual risk, consistent with the latest scientific evidence, to ensure blood donation criteria is equitably applied across all people." A 2014 study by the Williams Institute estimated that if the ban were to be lifted, an additional 360,000 men would likely donate, which could help save the lives of more than a million people.
Today's complete FDA report can be read here: www.fda.gov/media/164829/download .
About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.