The Food and Drug Administration is reportedly drawing up plans to allow gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships to donate blood without abstaining from sex for 90 days, parting from a long-standing policy that barred men who are currently having sex with men from donating.
The new policy is expected to require potential donors to complete a new questionnaire that would look into their sexual activity, including if they have had new sexual partners in the past three months, people familiar with the plans told the Wall Street Journal.
The FDA has slowly been easing blood donation restrictions on gay and bisexual men in the past decade. In 2015, the agency lifted a lifetime ban on men who have sex with men that was put in place in the 1980s during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, allowing those who have not had sex with another man within the last year to donate.
Most recently, the agency reduced the abstinence period from 12 months down to 3 months in 2020 amid blood shortages during the pandemic. The agency has said this policy has eliminated 90% of blood donors carrying a blood-borne disease, including HIV, as many infections would be apparent within that time.
In addition to the screening process, donated blood undergoes a series of tests to determine the presence of HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases.
The expected policy change comes after an FDA-funded study of 1,600 gay and bisexual men led by Vitalant, OneBlood, and the American Red Cross concluded earlier this year. The study tested whether a risk assessment questionnaire would be as effective as the 90-day policy in keeping the blood supply safe.
The American Red Cross, American Medical Association, Human Rights Campaign, and other organizations have urged the FDA to change their blood donation policies, suggesting it is discriminatory toward gay and bisexual men, though they have cautioned that any changes should maintain the safety of blood supplies.
Other countries have made similar moves to remove restrictions. Earlier this year, Canada removed a similar three-month requirement, instead opting to screen potential donors about their sexual history.