New Study by FDA Could Lift Blood Donation Bans for Gay, Bisexual Men

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday December 17, 2020

The FDA is funding a new study on blood donations by gay or bisexual men, The Hill reports.

As first reported by ABC News on Tuesday, the study called Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility (ADVANCE) — which also involves American Red Cross, Vitalant, OneBlood, and local LGBTQ community centers — is currently underway, and projects data will be presented to the FDA by late 2021.

As ABC points out, the study "could lead to the removal of longtime restrictions around blood donations by gay or bisexual men."

In a statement, the agency said to the Hill, "The FDA remains committed to considering alternatives to time-based deferral by generating the scientific evidence that is intended to support an individual risk assessment-based blood donor questionnaire."

The study will examine 2,000 men who have sex with men (MSM) and want to donate blood. The data from this study will assist the agency in determining, according to the Hill, "if a questionnaire based on individual risk assessments is just as effective for reducing the risk of HIV."

As recent as April, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a blood shortage, the FDA loosened restrictions on donations by gay men. Instead of a full-year ban on accepting blood from MSM, the agency recommended a three-month deferral.

On Monday, on the advice of a health committee that deemed such bans unnecessary, the United Kingdom dispensed with the three-month ban for MSM who engage in anal and oral sex. In both the US and the UK, as well as elsewhere in the world, such restrictions were introduced in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.