Doctors with the Massachusetts Medical Society and Fenway Health have called on the American Food and Drug Administration(FDA) to change the rules around gay men donating blood. 

Citing a nationwide blood donor shortage, they called the blood ban “discriminatory and not based in sound science.”

A Shift In Policy Will Save Lives

In an open letter released Wednesday, the Massachusetts Medical Society and Fenway Health urged the FDA to remove “its policy on unnecessary scrutiny and subsequent exclusion of men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood – a simple, safe step that will expand a blood supply that is perilously low across all health care settings.”

The letter went on to stress that blood bans should be implemented “according to their individual level of risk, not based on sexual orientation or other personal characteristics.

“An immediate shift in policy will help us care for our patients and save lives, while reversing an arbitrary rule that does nothing to advance public health and exacerbates stigma against members of the LGBTQ community,” it continued.

The FDA lifetime blood ban on men who have sex with men was instituted in 1983 out of fear that donated blood could spread HIV. The lifetime blood ban was changed in 2015 to a year, as long as the men had not had sex with other men during that time. This policy was again changed to 90 days during the COVID-19 pandemic to address blood shortages. 

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