New FDA Study Could End Blood Donation Bans for Gay and Bi Men

The news comes on the heels of a landmark change to blood donor rules in the U.K.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is launching an exciting new study that could put an end to outdated blood-donation restrictions for gay, bi, and queer men.

As ABC News reports, the agency has announced a first-of-its-kind pilot study called ADVANCE: Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility. The project calls upon three of America's largest blood-donation centers and LGBTQ community centers nationwide to determine if donor eligibility can be assessed on an individual basis instead of sweeping bans.

In the U.S., men who have sex with other men (MSM) are currently barred from donating blood if they have had sex within the past three months.

That three-month deferral period was actually shortened from 12 months earlier this year during a blood shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, LGBTQ advocates have repeatedly said that blanket bans on blood donations from MSM — a holdover from the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and '90s — aren't fair or scientifically sound.

News of the FDA's pilot study comes just a day after the U.K.'s National Health Service unveiled groundbreaking new guidelines for blood donations from MSM. Under the new rules, which go into effect in summer 2021, all potential donors will be assessed in a "more individualized" way. Anyone who has had the same sexual partner for at least three months, MSM included, will be eligible to donate blood.

Health officials in Northern Ireland also relaxed the country's blood donation rules for MSM in 2020.

In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson for the FDA said the agency "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." There is no word on whether another COVID-19-related blood shortage could speed up the study.

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