Evansville AIDS Resource Group responds to FDA easing blood donation guidelines

More gay and bisexual men able to donate blood
Evansville AIDS Resource Group responds to FDA easing blood donation guidelines
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 11:18 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The Food and Drug Administration updated its blood donation guidelines on Thursday, making it easier for more gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

[READ MORE: New blood donations rules allow more gay men to give in US]

Previous guidelines required men who have sex with men to abstain from sexual activity for a period of time before being allowed to donate. That policy was a lighter restriction than an initial ban that dated back to the 1980s.

Those restrictions came from a perceived higher risk of HIV infection.

14 News spoke with Tyler Gilham, the outreach specialist for the AIDS Resource Group of Evansville. He explained that the restrictions did nothing to help blood shortages.

“If we’re excluding people for a theoretical risk of HIV, it’s not very accurate,” he said. “We’re causing more harm due to that.”

It’s true that for a long time, gay men have made up a higher percentage of the HIV-positive population.

However, as Gilham pointed out, anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can be infected with HIV, so collection agencies test for it.

“Every single blood donation is screened for HIV,” he said. “So really the risk is not very much. It’s basically zero.”

Now, the FDA will recommend a series of “individual risk-based questions” that will be identical for all blood donors.

The American Red Cross issued a statement saying it would very quickly work to change its policies to allow more people to donate.

The Red Cross also acknowledged that it was a proponent of the policy change for years and assured blood recipients that all of their blood will be tested and safe.