Feb 1, 2022 - News

Study challenges LGBTQ stigma in blood drives

Illustration of a red cross animating into a not equal sign.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The FDA requires gay and bisexual men to wait three months since their last sexual encounter with a man before donating blood.

Now, a nationwide FDA study needs Atlantans to help determine how to change — or even end — the discriminatory policy.

Why it matters: LGBTQ, HIV/AIDS and public health advocates say the ban is outdated and reinforces a stigma against gay and bisexual men.

  • The policy also prevents enthusiastic donors from giving — all while blood banks across the country struggle to meet demand during the COVID pandemic.

“We have a unique window right now to change that policy,” Steven Igarashi-Ball of the Atlanta Pride Committee, the Red Cross' local partner in the study, tells Axios. “But the only way that we can do that is by getting people to participate in the study.”

Details: Last year, the FDA partnered with the country's three biggest blood donation centers  including the Red Cross, which supports lifting the ban to conduct the ADVANCE Study in Atlanta, Miami and six other major metros.

  • Eligible participants will answer a questionnaire and give a blood sample that will be tested for HIV and anti-retroviral drugs found in PrEP.

Yes, but: Atlanta wants to enroll 200 to 250 participants. It has signed up roughly 50.

  • Nationally, the study has reached a little less than half its 2,000-participant goal.

What they're saying: Jeff Graham, the executive director of Georgia Equality, could not understand why he was allowed to give blood in high school, but, when he became sexually active in college, was turned away.

  • During his 32-year monogamous relationship and later marriage, he and his husband were still banned based solely on their sexual orientation.
  • “It created this internal shame that there's something somehow wrong with me, that I have to justify my relationship,” Graham tells Axios. “And that my relationship is not being treated on equal footing with other relationships.”

How it works: ADVANCE — the initials stand for Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility — seeks gay and bisexual men age 18 to 39 who have had sex with men in the past three months.

Participants will be compensated for their time. If you're interested, you can sign up online or call 888-689-0001.


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