Let Gays Give

End Discrimination – Reform Blood Donation Policies!

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the ban?
Who regulates eligibility requirements for blood donations?
Why does the ban exist?
What policies do other countries have?
Why is giving blood so important?
How would you change the policy?
What would eliminating the permanent MSM ban and replacing it with eligibility criteria and screening procedures for all prospective donors based on objective risk factors look like?
What can I do?


What is the ban?
Men who have had sex with men (MSM) are barred from donating blood in the United States.

Who regulated eligibility requirements for blood donations?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for determining donor eligibility requirements.

Why does the ban exist?
HIV/AIDs was first clinically observed in the United States in 1981. Rare outbreaks of other diseases, enabled by the weakening of the immune system by HIV, gained attention by the Center for Disease Control and national media. Due to the number of deaths and infections in the gay community, press quickly coined the term “GRID” or gay-related immune deficiency to describe the disease. From this moment, HIV/AIDs became tied to the gay community. Despite significant scientific progress on understanding and labeling the virus, the stigma associated with HIV/AIDs has continued throughout the last three decades, with many still relating HIV/AIDs to the gay community. This stigma became institutionalized in many medical practices, one being blood donations. Men having sex with men has been assumed to lead to a high risk of HIV/AIDs.

As HIV/AIDs can be passed through blood transfusion, high risk groups and behaviors have been banned. Other eligibility requirements such as piercing, tattoos, and intravenous drug use were created. These bans have changed over time (except for intravenous drug use) to include deferral periods instead of permanent bans. Many have suggested that similar changes be made to this policy or to screen for high risk behaviors, such as unprotected sex, or number of sexual partners. The ban can be seen as a relic of the HIV/AIDs scare of the 80s and institutionalized discrimination of gay and bisexual men.

What policies do other countries have?
Countries that have lifted the ban on MSM donors:

  • Russia

Six-month deferral for MSM donors:

  • South Africa

One-year deferral for MSM donors:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Hungary
  • Japan
  • Sweden
  • England
  • Wales
  • Scotland

Five-year deferral for MSM donors:

  • New Zealand

Donors screened for high-risk sexual practices rather than MSM behavior:

  • Italy
  • Spain
  • France


Why is giving blood so important?
One pint of blood can save up to three lives and every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood. Many gay and bisexual men have known someone they love who has needed a blood transfusion, whether it is because they have cancer and need blood during chemotherapy, they were in an accident or another reason. These men experience heart break when they realize that they cannot give blood. Imagine wondering, “I am have no STDs, I have no health related problems and I cannot donate blood to my mother only because I am gay.” Like many others who donate, we want to give the gift of life, we want to help but we are simply not allowed to do so. It is important for us to have the ability to help, to give someone that gift.


How would you change the policy?
A report by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis on reforming the U.S. blood donation policies offers two alternatives: (1) institute a temporary deferral period for men who have had sex with another man or (2) eliminate the permanent MSM ban and replacing it with eligibility criteria and screening procedures for all prospective donors based on objective risk factors.

To make a clear stand against discrimination, and to allow the many healthy gay men who do not have HIV/AIDs and are either in committed, monogamous relationships or have not engaged in risky sexual behavior to donate, we recommend the second alternative. Eliminating the permanent MSM ban and replacing it with eligibility criteria and screening procedures for all prospective donors based on objective risk factors is best path forward.


What would eliminating the permanent MSM ban and replacing it with eligibility criteria and screening procedures for all prospective donors based on objective risk factors look like?
The following is taken from a 2010 report by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis on US Blood Donation Policy Reform:

“An alternative to a temporary deferral period limited to MSM donors would be to screen all donors for high-risk sexual practices. Such an approach would be more narrowly tailored to screening donors based on actual risk, rather than over-inclusive group-based classifications like the MSM ban, which necessarily prevent many otherwise safe and eligible individuals from donating blood.

Some countries ask all donors questions about recent high-risk sexual practices, such as whether the donor has engaged in unprotected sex or has recently had sex with a new partner or multiple partners, and defer individuals who answer “yes” to these questions for some period of time, regardless of the sex of the prospective donor and/or his or her sexual partner(s).

Such a screening approach could take several forms. First, a donor history screening protocol could be gender-neutral, asking all donors about high-risk sexual practices without specific reference to same-sex sexual behavior. A second approach would identify individuals from high-risk groups and ask specific questions targeted to gauge those individuals’ specific risk level. For example, an individual identified as MSM could be asked a series of additional questions about whether he has engaged in unprotected anal sex, sex with multiple partners, sex with an HIVpositive person or person of unknown HIV status, and other high-risk practices, answers to which might qualify or disqualify the donor from donating on that date. Either the first or second approach could be tied to a deferral period taking relevant window periods into account”


What can I do?
There are many ways you can help reform this discriminatory policy:

  1. Sign the petition asking the FDA to overturn the ban
  2. Like our facebook page
  3. Call or write your Senator or Congressman about the issue
  4. Host a community discussion on the blood ban (materials coming soon)
  5. Tweet our photo and spread the word!