FDA relaxes guidance on giving blood, reduces deferral period for gay men from 1 year to 3 months

Posted at 10:45 AM, Apr 02, 2020

The FDA announced Thursday that it is relaxing some of the recommendations regarding blood donations to address "a dramatic reduction in donations" amid the COVID-19 pandemic — but the department still recommends that sexually active gay men should not give blood.

According to a press release from the department, it is now recommending that male donors can give blood within three months of a sexual encounter with another man. The same recommendation applies to women who have had sex with a man who has had sex with another man.

Previously, the FDA recommended donors wait at least a year after such sexual encounters before giving blood.

The FDA also changed its recommendations to allow people who have had a recent tattoo or piercing to give blood after three months. Previously, the FDA recommended not providing blood for a year after a new tattoo or piercing.

Finally, the FDA is changing the recommended wait times for those who have recently traveled. Anyone who has traveled to malaria-epidemic regions can now give blood after three months, and anyone who has been in certain European countries can provide blood immediately.

According to the FDA, the changes "are expected" to remain in place after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

The FDA has faced criticism in the past for recommending that sexually active gay men not give blood. It wasn't until December 2015 that the agency removed a "lifetime ban" on giving blood for any man who has had sex with another man.