(COLORADO SPRINGS) — The American Red Cross lifted restrictions on additional requirements for gay and bisexual men to donate blood on Monday, Aug. 7. The decision comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ended a policy that’s been in effect for nearly four decades.
The FDA’s new guidelines lift restrictions singling out gay and bisexual men from donating blood for at least three months after having sexual intercourse.
A local LGBTQ+ advocacy group in Colorado Springs said it’s a policy that stigmatized a group of people based on misconceptions of a disease that can affect anyone, according to Liss Smith, Communications and Advocacy Director at Inside Out Youth Services.
“HIV, when it first appeared, was actually called horrifically the gay cancer because it did affect gay and bisexual men at higher rates,” Smith said.
Smith added these misconceptions were largely due to a lack of sexual education for LGBTQ+ communities.
“Safe sex was still misunderstood by a lot of folks because our laws and our policies did not really allow for that kind of education,” Smith added.
FDA guidelines now focus on individual risk assessment rather than sexual orientation.
“There’s now questions in these blood donation intake forms asking if you’ve had multiple new partners in recent months or things along those lines,” Smith said. “Those are the behaviors that may put you at risk for HIV and it’s not just, ‘are you a man who has sex with men’…”
Vitalant, Colorado’s leading blood collector, said it is proud to support scientific evidence-based donor eligiblity requirements citing the FDA’s studies in blood safety. The agency added it believes the new policy fosters a more inclusive blood donation experience for anyone wanting to roll up a sleeve and help safe lives.
“There’s still a stigma around HIV and AIDS,” Smith said. “It’s a shame because these are just people with a chronic illness like so many of us. It’s really important that we know that it’s not a character defect to contract this disease.”