Updated April 2, 2020
With blood donations down amid the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on April 2, 2020, eased its restriction on donations by men who have sex with men, setting three months (instead of 12) as the length of time they must wait to give blood after last having sex with a man. This and other changes in donor deferral recommendations took effect immediately, and the FDA said it expected to keep them in place after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. The agency concluded that the old recommendations could be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply, based on recently completed studies and epidemiologic data.
April 15, 2019
A statement from Chancellor Gary S. May:
UC Davis is happy to host its next regular blood drive this Tuesday through Thursday (April 16-18), from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Quad.
I encourage all who are able to come give the gift of life. Every pint of blood can save up to three lives, and the need for blood is ever-present — one pint every two seconds, in fact.
I also want to acknowledge those in our community who would participate, were they not barred by federal restrictions on blood donations by men who have had sex with men (MSM).
At the start of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration imposed a lifetime deferral of blood donations by MSM. Since then, scientists have made huge strides in our understanding and testing of HIV. As a result, in 2015, the FDA shortened the deferral period for MSM to one year. Unfortunately, this policy continues to work as a ban on donations from most sexually active gay and bisexual men.
Vitalant (formerly BloodSource), which runs our blood drives, contributed research that figured in the FDA’s decision to shorten the deferral period. “However, we know that’s not the end of the story,” Vitalant says on its “MSM Policy” webpage. “We are committed to researching the feasibility of, and, if research supports, advocating for the same approach for U.S. blood donors that countries including the United Kingdom and France have adopted: shorter deferral periods.” Other countries now use individual risk assessment rather than categorical bans based on gender or sexual orientation.
UC Davis strongly supports the development of evidence-based policies that would allow blood donations from all who are safely able to give. UC Davis — and I personally — stand strongly against all forms of discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. By using those traits as a proxy for risk, the FDA’s policy unnecessarily prevents some of our fellow students, staff and faculty from joining in this important and generous community effort.
None of us able to donate blood should take for granted what a privilege it is and what a difference we can make. I look forward to the day when all who want to give blood and can do so safely are allowed to give this generous gift.
Gary S. May