FDA loosens restrictions on gay men donating blood amid pandemic

FDA loosens restrictions on gay men donating blood amid pandemic
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The federal government is loosening restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men in light of a blood shortage brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

In revised guidelines published Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended a three-month deferral for men who have sex with men. The previous policy was a full year ban.

The new guidelines will remain in place throughout the pandemic and will be updated to incorporate public comment within 60 days of the emergency being lifted.

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The agency has been facing pressure from Democratic lawmakers and activist groups to change its donation policy.

According to the FDA, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused "unprecedented challenges" to the national blood supply.

Donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives.

The American Red Cross announced last month nearly 2,700 blood drives — where the organization collects more than 80 percent of its blood donations — had been canceled due to the pandemic.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a call for healthy Americans to donate blood in response to the nationwide shortage.

The three-month deferral also applies to those who recently got tattoos or piercings, as well as former sex workers or injection drug users, who were previously indefinitely banned from donating.

The FDA said experience in other countries like the United Kingdom and Canada with a three-month deferral and improved testing led the agency to make the change.