Local blood bank eager to see FDA loosen restrictions on gay donors

OneBlood hopes FDA guidelines will loosen for gay men who want to donate blood.
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 7:10 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Local blood banks are hopeful the Food and Drug Administration will soon pave the way for a major change in how gay men are allowed to donate blood.

The agency announced last week they are leaning towards ditching a delay requirement before a gay man can give blood. Gay rights activists say it’s a long overdue change.

Gay men could not give blood at all until 2015, when the FDA revised an 80s-era blanket ban. The change allowed men to donate if they hadn’t been sexually active with men for a year. In 2020, that deferral time shrunk to three months.

OneBlood Senior VP of Corporate Communications and PR Susan Forbes told WCTV it’s about time to see that shrink to zero.

“There’s never a day in our community where we don’t need blood donors to show up at our donor centers and at our big red busses,” she said.

“Anytime additional donors are allowed into the donor pool safely, that’s a good thing,” she said.

OneBlood joined the American Red Cross and Vitalant in the FDA-backed ADVANCE study, which included roughly 2,000 gay and bisexual men across two years.

The study asked one important question.

“Can we move from a 3 month deferral period a time based deferral and move to an individual risk assessment,” Forbes said.

The data is now in the FDA’s hands. Florida State College of Nursing Professor Lisa Hightow-Weidman said the change is a long time coming.

“[It] puts data in the hands of the folks making the decisions, and you combine that with the greatest blood supply crisis the US has seen in over a decade,” she said.

Jon Harris Maurer is the public policy director for Equality Florida.

“Everybody benefits when you have more blood donation,” he said.

The gay community, he pointed out, has long wanted a clear path to saving lives.

“There were a lot of people who felt directly connected to the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando, and who were prohibited from donating then because of the blanket ban policy,” he said. “Updating these policies to be more in alignment with good science would allow so many more people to help the community in that way.”

It’s unclear when the FDA will announce an official decision on the guidance.

OneBlood hosts frequent blood drives in the Big Bend and across the Southeast.