‘New era of donor eligibility:’ FDA eliminates restrictions on gay, bisexual blood donors

New FDA policy screens all blood donors for HIV regardless of sexual orientation

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Food and Drug Administration announced changes to its MSM blood donor policy on Thursday, allowing for more gay and bisexual men to become blood donors.

Representatives from One Blood said they’re glad to see a decades-old policy restricting gay and bisexual men from donating blood come to an end.

Member of the gay and bisexual community — and Savoy Orlando owner Brandon Llewellyn — said the new policy has been a long time coming.

“Finally, the policy that was very antiquated and discriminatory is finally lifted,” Llewellyn said. “We’ll be able to start donating blood.”

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While the issue has been long-standing in the community, it became even more apparent back in 2016 when people who wanted to donate blood after the Pulse Nightclub shooting were turned away.

“I mean, obviously, we know a lot of people that went through it, and, you know, people that wanted to donate blood at that time but couldn’t, and it was very hurtful from anything,” Llewellyn said.

The new FDA policy screens all blood donors for HIV risks regardless of gender or sexual orientation. One Blood Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Relations, Susan Forbes, said this brings in a new era of donor eligibility.

“This maintains safety, the blood supply,” Forbes said. “It makes blood donation more inclusive. It treats all donors equally and fairly. And at the end of the day, it enables more people the opportunity to donate blood. So these are all really great things.”

One Blood helped make this new policy a reality by enrolling 1,600 gay and bisexual men into the FDA-funded ‘ADVANCE’ study.

One Blood called on local organizations in Orlando and South Florida to help find participants. The results provided helped the FDA make the decision to change its policy.

“We’re very grateful to the LGBTQ+ community here in Orlando and in South Florida for the participants who enrolled in that study,” Forbes said. “They should take great pride today in what they helped accomplish by making blood donation more inclusive and maintaining safety the blood supply at the same time.”

In anticipation of the FDA’s decision, One Blood has already made changes to its software to implement the new Donor History Questionnaire. However, there is still more work to be done before the new policy is fully in place.

“We look forward to implementing the new guidance, and as soon as we’re able to do that, then we will make an announcement that we are underneath the new guidance,” Forbes said. “Until that time, we remain under the three-month deferral for men who have sex with men. So that policy stays in place until we’re able to move to the new policy.”

Forbes said that for those who were deferred prior to July 2017 when the FDA’s lifetime ban was in place, they will have to go online and be reentered.

For more information on the timing of the new policy, click here.

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Emily joined WKMG-TV in November 2022.