The US could completely lift its ban on gay men donating blood in favor of a case-to-case policy.
On Tuesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted a request asking the public for comments on the current guidelines.
Anyone interested can submit comments on the matter, as long as they’re backed up with scientific evidence, as the FDA aims to update its policies to reflect new scientific information.
In December 2015, the blanket ban on gay men was lifted and a new policy introduced, allowing men who have sex with men to donate blood, but only if they have abstained from sexual contact with another man for 12 months.
At the time, it was criticized by activists, politicians and medical experts alike, who said the policy was discriminatory.
They also called for a case-by-case policy, which would take into consideration the individual’s HIV risk rather than imposing a blanket ban.
After the shooting at gay nightclub Pulse in Orland, which left 49 dead and 53 wounded, the issue once again gained publicity, as LGBTI groups said the restrictions made it difficult for victims’ friends and loved ones to donate blood.
The FDA’s change of stance was welcomed by critics of the current rules, who called the request for comment ‘encouraging’.
‘While this potential policy change could have a positive impact on men who have sex with men (MSM) and other marginalised donors, it would also make our blood supply safer,’ said Mike Quigley, Vice-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and U.S. Representative, in a statement.
‘Moving towards an individual risk assessment would provide for a fair, equitable, non-discriminatory blood donation policy.’
He is backed up by Tammy Baldwin, Senator for Wisconsin, who said she’ll continue to push for inclusive policies based on individual risk.
‘I have long fought to end discriminatory blood donation policies and improve them, including for healthy gay and bisexual men,’ she said.
‘It is encouraging that the FDA is taking another step forward to develop better blood donor policies that are grounded in science, don’t unfairly single out one group of individuals, and allow all healthy Americans to donate.’