Gay men donating blood: American Red Cross wants ban eased

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American Red Cross is asking the Food and Drug Administration to consider changing its blood donation policy for gay men.

Right now, the FDA bans men from donating blood for one year after having sex with another man.

That rule came in 2015 after decades of an indefinite ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with other men.

The Red Cross is now recommending a three-month ban, which is the same policy used in Great Britain and Canada.

The agency released a following statement on Thursday:

The American Red Cross seeks to build an inclusive environment that embraces diversity for all those who engage with our lifesaving mission. As such the Red Cross believes blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation. We are committed to working toward achieving this goal.

As a scientifically-based interim step, the Red Cross encourages the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider reducing its deferral time for men who have sex with men (MSM) from twelve to three months while further options are evaluated for the United States. This is consistent with policy changes made by several other countries including Canada and Great Britain. We also strongly support the expanded use of new technologies to work toward elimination of donor eligibility questions that would no longer be necessary.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that every blood recipient receives safe, lifesaving blood when needed. While the Red Cross is regulated by the FDA and cannot unilaterally enact changes in the MSM deferral policy, we continue to work with other U.S. blood collection organizations to gather and provide data to the FDA for additional research and evaluation.

We ask advocates and stakeholders to join us in this important dialogue around the existing deferral policy and pathways toward achieving our goal, while recognizing the need to always maintain patient safety. Together, we will work toward an inclusive and equitable blood donation process that treats all potential donors with equality and respect, and ensures a safe, sufficient blood supply is readily available for patients in need.
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