Continued Improvements in Blood Donor Screening 

We’ll get there.

For as long as I have been donating platelets (a specialized form of donating blood), there have been restrictions on donations by men who have sex with other men. Though these limits were enacted during the AIDS crisis in the ’80s, when I began donating in 2005, any man who’d ever had sex with another man was still barred from donating. This was eventually softened, with the rules prohibiting “only” men who’d had sex with another man in the past year, and eventually down to the past three months.

Going from “The government views your blood as permanently tainted” to “Fine, we’ll take you, as long as you have a lousy sex life” is an improvement, yes, but it’s still not great. With new rule changes from the FDA, however, we should be getting a bit closer to a reasonable standard.

The new risk assessment is expected to ask potential donors, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, if they have had any new sexual partners in the past three months…They can give blood if they say no. Those who have had new sexual partners would be asked if they had engaged in anal intercourse in the past three months; those who have would be asked to wait three months to donate.…This will allow sexually active men in monogamous relationships with other men to give blood for the first time since 1985.

Each and every time I’ve filled out my screening questionnaire, I’ve been bothered by the unnecessary limitations on others trying to do something selfless. Concern about the safety of America’s blood supply was understandable, but previous restrictions were inconsistent, and advances in testing were slow to be incorporated into the rules.1 I’m glad to see improvements continuing to be made.


  1. As nursing student and activist Cole Williams bluntly noted in the article, “I could have as much unprotected sex with as many women as I wanted, and the FDA would have no problem with that.” ↩︎