Red Cross opens door to more gay and bisexual men to donate blood

Red Cross broadens blood donation policy to include more gay, bisexual men

Red Cross broadens blood donation policy to include more gay, bisexual men

Following policy changes in the spring, the American Red Cross is ready to welcome many more gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

Monday started a new, more inclusive, chapter for the Red Cross as a person’s sexual orientation will no longer be a factor to determine blood donation eligibility.

“[The] Red Cross believes this is one of the most significant changes in blood donor, blood banking history,” Sue Thesenga, with the American Red Cross, said.

“We’ve worked for decades with the FDA and our other blood partners in the industry to make this change,” Thesenga added.

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made the policy change, writing it “finalized recommendations for assessing blood donor eligibility using a set of individual risk-based questions to reduce the risk of transfusion-transmitted HIV. These questions will be the same for every donor, regardless of sexual orientation, sex or gender.”

A blanket ban on blood donations from gay men began in the 1980s in response to the HIV and Aids crisis. The policy did relax in recent years, but it hasn’t had this significant of a change. Now, gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships can donate without abstaining from sex, as long as they test HIV negative and are practicing safe sex.

For many, this policy change is overdue and welcomed.

“The last time I was able to give [blood] was probably like in high school,” Wes Milla, of St. Paul, said.

Milla, a gay man and also a nurse, hasn’t been able to give blood in years.

“It was very frustrating for a long time, just not being able to not being able to help my patients in that way,” Milla added.

While helping with the overall blood supply, Milla said this will also have a deeper and meaningful impact.

“I think the awareness around it, and the fact that stigma as hopefully, I don’t know if I’d say taken away completely, but at least diminished [is] a big step forward,” Milla said.

In a statement, another major donation center, Memorial Blood Centers (MBC), wrote in part: “For decades, we have strongly advocated for scientifically-based changes to the FDA policies about men who have sex with men (MSM) and we applaud the FDA’s final guidance that establishes a blood donor screening process based on Individual Donor Assessment, not sexual or gender identity.”

MBC says it expects to be able to welcome this group of new donors on September 25, 2023.