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GMHC Statement in Response to Potential Changes to the FDA Blood Ban

GMHC, founded in 1982 as the world’s first HIV and AIDS services organization, is responding to news first reported in the Wall Street Journal that the FDA will implement a new individual risk assessment that could allow gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) to donate blood if they have not had anal sex with a new partner in the previous three months. This includes MSM in monogamous relationships or who have been celibate. Currently, the FDA requires all MSM to be celibate for three months in order to donate blood and plasma.

The following is a statement from Jason Cianciotto, GMHCs Vice President of Communications and Policy, in response to these developments:

The FDA’s reported plan to implement an individual risk assessment that will allow gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men (MSM) who have not had anal sex with a new sexual partner in the previous three months to donate blood is an important step in the right direction. For decades, GMHC has led advocacy for the FDA to base its blood donation policy on science, not stigma. HIV is not a ‘gay disease.’ There is nothing inherent to sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation that makes people more likely to contract HIV—or any other illness.

GMHC urges the FDA to do more:

  • Do not solely use this new policy to screen men. HIV does not know gender. According to the CDC, of the just over 39,800 people in the United States newly diagnosed with HIV in 2019, nearly 7,000 were women. And the total number of women living with HIV was 263,900.
  • Do not use anal sex with a new sexual partner in the past three months as the sole indicator of high-risk sexual behavior. HIV is also transmitted via unprotected vaginal intercourse. Instead, the screening tool should focus on ALL prospective donors who did not participate in SAFER SEX, including condom usage, with a new sexual partner during the short window in which modern testing cannot detect HIV.
  • Reduce the screening period from three months to 45 days. According to the CDC, a nucleic acid test (NAT) can detect HIV 10 to 33 days after exposure.

the FDA chooses to base blood donation restrictions on the sex, gender, or sexual orientation of prospective donors, rather than high-risk behavior among ALL prospective donors, it will continue to stigmatize, promote homophobia, and communicate an inaccurate message about how HIV is transmitted.

For more information about GMHC’s work to end the FDA Blood Ban, see: Why Does FDA Ban ‘Gay’ Blood?