Quick Facts

What’s Blood Equality all about? Learn the quick facts about the gay blood ban so you can stand up for science, not stigma.

What is the FDA policy for MSM donation?
  • For more than 30 years all gay and bisexual men were completely banned from donating blood in the United States. This ban was based on fear and misconceptions of AIDS and HIV at the time. In December 2015, the FDA finally revised the lifetime ban, but…
  • Today, gay and bisexual men can donate blood on the condition that they have not engaged in any sexual activity with another man in the 1-year preceding the donation. This is a de facto lifetime ban

Learn more:

FDA Q&A

Wiki page

Blood Equality panel discussion video

What is the result of this policy?
  • More than 615,000 pints of blood are turned away annually just because the donor is gay or bisexual. This is blood that could help save the lives of 1.8 million people annually, according to the Williams Institute
  • It reinforces negative stereotypes about gay and bisexual people—particularly that AIDS and HIV is a “gay disease”
  • It supports the false perception that heterosexual people are at low risk for HIV infection, while allowing individuals who participate in high-risk behavior, but who do not identify as gay or bisexual, to donate blood. This doesn’t make sense
Why is the deferral period for MSM set at 1 year?
  • The FDA argues that there isn’t sufficient data to determine whether a deferral policy of less than 1 year would increase risk to the blood supply; however, other countries like Spain and Italy don’t have a 1-year deferral
  • They also fear that the gay community may spread a new, undiscovered infectious disease. This is completely unfounded and therefore unacceptable

Learn more:

PBS

Factcheck.org

Can men who have sex with men donate blood at all?

Yes, but only if a man meets all other donor eligibility criteria AND if his last sexual contact with another man (anal or oral sex) was 12 or more months ago. But let’s be real, this means “no”

How is blood tested?
  • Every sample of blood is screened using 2 different tests to help ensure the blood is safe
  • Tests now allow for detection of HIV within 7 to 10 days of infection (according to the American Red Cross). This “window period” is how long it takes before donation for the virus to develop in a person’s blood at levels detectable by current tests. With the window being 7-10 days, there is no reason for a 1-year deferral

Learn more:

American Red Cross

What is the latest testing technology?
  • The Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) is used to test most blood donations in the US and is highly accurate, detecting HIV within just a few days of infection. Yet there is still a 1-year ban
  • NAT detects viral genes themselves, rather than antibodies or viral proteins, allowing for earlier detection
  • With this sophisticated testing, the FDA estimates the risk of HIV infection from a blood transfusion at about 1 in 1.47 million
How can the policy be changed to ensure safety and also not be discriminatory?
  • First and foremost, the FDA should update the blood donation screener (the Donor History Questionnaire) so that all potential donors are screened for high-risk behavior, regardless of sexual orientation. Only prospective donors determined to be at high risk should be subject to deferral periods
  • The policy should allow low-risk gay and bisexual men to donate blood, as there their blood would be screened as well
  • It makes sense that MSM who are identified to be part of a higher-risk group should, like their straight counterparts, be identified and considered differently. This can include IV drug users, commercial sex workers, or people who report unprotected sex with partner(s) with HIV or with unknown HIV status. Experts should agree on how to manage all people, including MSMs, who fall into this higher-risk donor category
Is the FDA open to updating the policy?
  • Yes! The FDA has responded to a request from us (Blood Equality) to join a medical advisory panel we are hosting with a number of medical experts. We are hopeful that they will work with us to take meaningful and swift action in revising the policy
  • Recently, the FDA officially announced re-evaluating the current 1-year deferral. The FDA issued a request for public comment and is accepting suggestions for modifying the policy and screener from July 28, 2016 through November 25, 2016

Learn more:

FDA

What is Blood Equality doing to change the current policy?
  • Blood Equality is actively committed to a blood donation policy based on science, not stigma. Starting in 2015, we have organized several events and public discussions, including:
    • An expert panel at American University
    • A press conference on the steps of New York City Hall on World Blood Donor Day
    • An event on the High Line in NYC
    • A park installation
  • We are currently organizing a Blood Equality Medical Advisory Board (hosted in conjunction with GMHC) to evaluate the current MSM blood donation policy and to urge the FDA to further revise the current policy. Experts on blood donation policies, HIV, and blood safety along with LGBT advocates will convene later this year. If you would like to be involved in this effort, please contact us

Learn more:

DNAinfo

The Advocate

The Huffington Post

Politico

Facebook

What can I do to influence policy change?
  • Easy! Make a custom Blood Equality poster and share it to help spread awareness of the issue (be sure to use #BloodEquality)
  • Submit your poster to the FDA as a comment in response to the current policy, which is open for commenting until November 25, 2016
  • Write your congressman/woman and tell them you want an MSM blood donation policy based on science, not stigma. Use this site to easily and quickly contact your representative in Congress