US eases blood donations restrictions for men who have sex with men

The new policy finalised on Thursday, May 11, allows more gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) to donate blood without abstaining from sex.

Two gloved hands hold a tray of blood vials representing the US updated policy which allows donations from some gay and bisexual men.
Image: Twitter @Reuters

The US Food and Drug Administration updated their official blood donation guidelines on Thursday, May 11, to accept donations from more gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) in monogamous relationships.

The new US federal policy lifted the previous restrictions which prohibited blood donations from most gay and bisexual men or other men who have sex with men. The guidelines, which were last updated in 2020, required men to abstain from having sex with other men for three months prior to donating.

The new screening process invites all donors, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, to complete a questionnaire about their recent sexual history to determine their eligibility. The “individual risk-based questions” are the same for every blood donor. This model follows Canada and the United Kingdom which have adopted similar approaches in recent years.


In addition to sexual history, potential donors will be asked about any injectable drug use, recent tattoos, and piercings which may contribute to the spread of blood-borne infections.

Kate Fry, Chief Executive of America’s Blood Centres, says, “This shift toward individual donor assessments prioritises the safety of America’s blood supply while treating all donors with the fairness and respect they deserve.”

Under the new policy, all donors who have had sex with multiple partners or anal sex with a new partner within the past three months will still be asked to wait to donate. Anyone who has previously tested positive for HIV will remain ineligible to donate.


Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said, “The implementation of these recommendations will represent a significant milestone for the agency and the LGBTQI+ community.”

He added, “The FDA has worked diligently to evaluate our policies and ensure we had the scientific evidence to support individual risk assessment for donor eligibility while maintaining appropriate safeguards to protect recipients of blood products.”

Blood donation restrictions were initially implemented during the AIDS epidemic to protect the blood supply from HIV. These discriminatory and outdated policies limited the nation’s blood supply and were unnecessary since blood banks routinely screen blood donations for HIV.

LGBTQ+ activists and health organisations including the American Medical Association and American Red Cross have long called for these changes. While the new guidelines are a step in the right direction, unnecessary barriers still exist.


The new policy still precludes blood donations from anyone taking PrEP – an FDA-approved drug proven to prevent transmission of HIV infections. The agency says this policy is in place to avoid any delay in detecting the virus during blood screening. GLAAD, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, said denying donors who are taking PREP from donating will add “unnecessary stigma” to donors.

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