Jan 13, 2022 - Health

Democratic Reps call on FDA to revise blood donation policy for gay men

Vials of blood sit on a table as Oscar Platero doantes blood at Vitalant blood donation center on January 11, 2022 in San Francisco, California

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

LGBTQ advocates and Congress members are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to revise its blood donor policy on sexually active gay and bisexual men as the country faces a blood shortage.

Why it matters: The FDA requires gay and bisexual men abstain from same-sex sexual activity for 90 days in order to donate blood.

Flashback: The FDA announced in 2020 that gay men, bisexual men and their female partners could donate blood after a three-month waiting period instead of a 12-month period.

State of play: On Tuesday, the American Red Cross declared its first-ever national blood crisis amid the surge of the Omicron variant.

  • In a letter to the FDA on Thursday, Reps Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) said the FDA should reassess the policy so "every person who can safely donate blood in the United States has the opportunity to do so.” 
  • The Human Rights Campaign strongly encouraged federal authorities to "remove unnecessary restrictions on blood donation by men who have sex with men."
  • “The current policy is outdated, does not reflect the state of the science, and continues to unfairly stigmatize one segment of society," Joni Madison, Interim President of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
  • If the FDA were to lift the 90-day policy, the annual blood supply would increase by 2% to 4% annually, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA School of Law.
Go deeper