Obstacle in Blood Donations for Gay and Bi-sexual Men

Author: Tsara Shelton
Published: Wednesday 13th May 2020
Summary: People recovered from COVID-19 can donate blood plasma, however, if you are a gay or bisexual man, or a woman who has recently slept with a bisexual man, you may not be permitted to donate.


During this COVID-19 pandemic we are uniquely challenged to step up. Commonly, stepping up and taking action requires leaving the home, meeting up with like-minded activists or advocates, discussing and doing. And for some, that is how they are taking action during this pandemic.

But for a great many of us, staying home is the action we are taking. It feels strange and like not doing anything, but it is not easy and it is doing something.

Some of us are able to do more. Particularly people who have recovered from the novel corona virus.

By donating blood during this time when there is a shortage, we are doing something we can point to with clarity. And people who have recovered can donate plasma in the hopes that their antibodies might help someone else struggling to fight the virus.

However, if you are a gay or bisexual man, or are a woman who has recently slept with a bisexual man, you may not be permitted to donate.

Admittedly, the FDA has relaxed the rules in order to be more inclusive during this time of need. Until recently, regulated blood donation centers in the USA had to defer for 12 months from the most recent sexual contact with a man who had sex with another man. According to their questionnaire recommendations now, updated to reflect the urgent need of our time:

I. For male donors: a history in the past 3 months of sex with another man,

j. For female donors: a history in the past 3 months of sex with a man who has had sex with another man in the past 3 months.

And their deferral recommendations:

9. Defer for 3 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 3 months.

10.Defer for 3 months from the most recent sexual contact, a female who has had sex during the past 3 months with a man who has had sex with another man in the past 3 months.

The Red Cross and other US blood donation centers recognize the hurt this inflicts on the LQBTQ+ community, yet are bound by FDA guidelines because they are a regulated organization.

Note: It was in part due to the urging of blood donation centers that the FDA recommendations were revised from 12 months to 3, matching recommendations in several other countries who serve as examples of no adverse effects. So, a gay or bisexual man who has recently made love to another man, or a woman who has recently made love to a man who may have recently made love to a man, can lie about themselves and their history to donate potentially lifesaving blood, or be honest and hope that the donation center will not defer.

This is an obstacle not only for gay or bisexual men, but for any inclusive society. Particularly one in need of blood and plasma.

* * * * *

Tsara Shelton is the author of "Spinning in Circles and Learning From Myself" - a book that offers a unique and intimate narrative on parenting, autism, and growing up. Her website, Tsara Shelton's Autism Answers, offers a variety of musings, shared family stories, book reviews, and short fiction posts that are rarely specifically about autism or parenting. They are, however, almost always stories grown from the fertile and organic thinking soil that can be found where the two come together.


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