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Blood donation restrictions based on sexual orientation eased

Posted at 6:30 AM, Jul 14, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The Food and Drug Administration is easing restrictions on blood donations next week, in particular for gay men in hopes that America's blood supply will be bolstered.

ARUP Blood Services will be the first in Utah and one of the first donor centers in the entire country to implement the new guidelines.

Experts say the old restrictions were outdated while many others say they discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.

The restrictions were originally put in place due to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. There was no testing for HIV at the time and FDA officials said those rules were designed to protect the U.S. blood supply.

But in the last three decades, technology and testing have come a long way.

“We now have testing, technology has gotten much better, and the way that we ask our questions has also been tweaked," explained Dr. Waseem Anani, Medical Director, ARUP Blood Services

In particular, questions regarding sexual history have been changed to be more inclusive, Anani said.

"Now that question is completely gone and it’s been replaced with three, new, inclusive questions that we ask all donors, irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation,” he said.

The goal of the change in restrictions is to lower barriers in hopes that more gay men will now choose to donate because the need for blood is constant.

“It can be hard, you’re providing a lot of personal information but the goal is to make sure the blood is safe for donation and for the person receiving it," Anani explained. "Again, you’re giving blood out of the goodness of your own heart and we want to make sure when you do that it’s safe for the person that’s receiving it and safe for the person that’s giving it.”

The changes officially go into effect next Tuesday, July 18.