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Expanded Blood Donation Rules Go into Effect

Sarah Bricker Hunt

Starting Aug. 7, blood donation centers will implement new donor eligibility requirements that will open blood donation to individuals who were previously excluded due to certain restrictions, including men who have sex with men. 

The change comes after the FDA issued final guidance in May, transitioning to an individual donor assessment to determine eligibility and reduce the risk of HIV transmission through blood transfusions. Starting today, blood donation services like those provided by the Red Cross will no longer differentiate between men and women when assessing the risk of infectious diseases for potential donors.

The changes have been in development for several years, with efforts to reform blood donation policies dating back to the early 1980s during the AIDS crisis. At that time, strict restrictions were placed on potential LGBTQ+ donors, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM), due to concerns about HIV transmission. This led to sexually active gay and bisexual men being excluded from donating blood for decades.



Dr. Julie Karp, from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, explained to radio station KYW that the progress in changing these policies was significant, as there were no longer compelling scientific reasons to maintain the previous restrictions. However, she acknowledged that the FDA, being a conservative organization when it comes to blood safety, was cautious about implementing changes that might jeopardize the safety of the blood supply.

Newer testing methods and data from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada have demonstrated that it is possible to be more inclusive in blood donation strategies while ensuring the safety of the blood supply. The Red Cross emphasized that years of data have shown that the new eligibility screening process would maintain a safe blood supply for all patients, providing them with confidence in the blood they receive.

The Red Cross announced in June its ongoing efforts to introduce procedural changes that would allow sexually active gay and bisexual men, who were previously ineligible, to donate blood going forward. This step represents a positive shift towards inclusivity and increased opportunities for potential blood donors in Metro Detroit.

To find out about donating blood under the new eligibility requirements, visit redcrossblood.org. Your donation could make a significant difference in saving lives and supporting those in need.



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