ORLANDO, Fla. – Nearly five years after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, three of the largest blood centers in the country have launched a study to potentially allow gay and bisexual men to become donors more easily.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic, Food and Drug Administration recommendations did not allow any man who had sex with another man in the last 12 months to donate. In April of 2020, the deferral changed to 3 months and still reads: “Defer for 3 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 3 months.”
OneBlood, along with the American Red Cross and Vitalant began conducting the ADVANCE study last year in an effort to change the donor history questionnaire.
ADVANCE, stands for Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility. According to the study website, if the scientific evidence supports the use of the different questions it could mean men who have sex with men would be assessed based upon their own individual risk for HIV infection and not according to when their last sexual contact with another man occurred.
“It’s a step towards normalizing gay people in our society,” Scott Moriczdetecso, ADVANCE Study participant said.
The regulation from the FDA gained international attention after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in 2016. Hundreds of people lined up at OneBlood locations in Orlando and many gay men were turned away.
“It took a global pandemic to change the regulations but there weren’t any changes almost 5 years ago, and it’s like well my bloods just as red as yours, why don’t you want it?” Danny Garcia, the Vice President of the board at the LGBT+ Center Orlando, said.
The FDA guidelines began during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
Garcia encouraged participants 18 to 39 years old to get involved, 300 participants are needed.
“Do it, be a part of something that’s going to be something great,” Garcia said.
Those interested in participating can sign up by clicking here.