The Food and Drug Administration has just announced a landmark change to its blood donation policy for gay, bisexual, and queer men amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a press release issued on Thursday, April 2, the federal agency confirmed it would make changes "for immediate implementation" to its current blood donation guidelines for men who have sex with other men (MSM). MSM were previously faced with a 12-month deferral period before they could donate blood. The FDA has shortened that wait time to three months.
In its statement the FDA cited "unprecedented challenges to the U.S. blood supply" brought on by the coronavirus.
"At the FDA, we want to do everything we can to encourage more blood donations, which includes revisiting and updating some of our existing policies to help ensure we have an adequate blood supply, while still protecting the safety of our nation’s blood supply," the statement reads in part. "Based on recently completed studies and epidemiologic data, the FDA has concluded that current policies regarding certain donor eligibility criteria can be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply. Therefore, the FDA is revising recommendations in several guidances regarding blood donor eligibility."
These changes are expected to remain in place after the pandemic ends, although the FDA also said it will "provide notification when the alternative procedures are no longer in effect," and will "make any appropriate changes based on comments we receive and our experience implementing the [new] guidances."
The revision comes weeks after LGBTQ advocacy groups like HRC and GLAAD began urging the FDA to reconsider its policy. GLAAD launched a popular petition last month targeting the agency's "outdated and discriminatory" guidelines for gay and bisexual men hoping to donate blood.
Read the FDA's updated guidelines in full here.