An unprecedented dip in the U.S. blood supply has led the Food and Drug Administration to relax long-standing restrictions on receiving blood donations from sexually active homosexual men.
The new guidelines new rules, released on Thursday, are intended to boost donations amid a shortage caused by nationwide donor center closures amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Previous federal rules required that donors wait 12 months from their last homosexual intercourse before giving blood. Now, that wait has been shortened to three months.
The policy also applies to women who have had sex with gay or bisexual men and those who have received tattoos or piercings, each of which have also had wait times reduced from twelve months to three.
Although LGBT advocacy organizations welcomed the new guidelines, they have expressed that any restrictions on blood donation from homosexuals place an undue stigma on gay people.
“LGBTQ Americans can hold their heads up today and know that our voices will always triumph over discrimination,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, adding that the change is “in line with science, but remains imperfect.”
“We will keep fighting until the deferral period is lifted and gay and bi men, and all LGBTQ people, are treated equal to others,” Ellis declared.
According to the FDA, the policy updates followed recent studies and epidemiological data that demonstrated that donation eligibility criteria can be modified without threatening the safety of the blood supply.
Federal officials say the new policy will remain active even after the pandemic ends.
“Maintaining an adequate blood supply is vital to public health. Blood donors help patients of all ages – accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients and those battling cancer and other life-threatening conditions,” FDA officials said in the policy announcement.
Up until 2015, the U.S. had banned blood donations from gay and bisexual men, beginning with the ’80s AIDS epidemic.
Although modern blood screenings can detect HIV, leading some LGBT advocates to say any wait time is unnecessary, blood tests can give negative results for about nine days after someone has been infected with HIV.
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