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LGBT advocates pushing for new blood donation regulations

Posted at 8:03 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 20:03:44-04

LANSING, Mich. — The Food and Drug Administration updated it's blood donation guidelines to allow gay men to donate blood if they haven't had sex in three months. LGBT advocates are pushing for a complete change on those guidelines.

"That seemed like a slap in the face, especially for me," said LGBT advocate Bradley Johnson.

Johnson said the FDA is taking a step in the right direction by loosening the guidelines for gay men during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said it doesn't go far enough.

"It doesn't feel good. It was kind of a win, but to me it was still a loss," Johnson said.

The FDA said these restrictions are in place to cut the risk of spreading HIV.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said gay and bisexual men accounted for 69% of the HIV cases nationwide in 2018, the last year when data was available.

During the same year, people who are straight made up 25% of HIV cases in the U.S.

"That's a demographic that's completely eliminated from being at risk because they are perceived as low risk," Johnson said.

The American Red Cross supports the FDA's decision to ease donation restrictions on gay men. It said in a statement this is a step in the right direction to treat potential donors equally.

However, 19 Attorneys General, including Michigan AG Dana Nessel said it's time for the FDA to make guidelines based on risk instead of sexual orientation.

"Risk for everybody rather than just a risk for just a percentage of the population," said Johnson.

He said if the FDA changes the blood donation rules, it would be good for more than just the LGBT community.

"Lifting this ban would bring in hundreds of thousands of more units of blood that could be used during this pandemic," said Johnson.

The Lansing Red Cross chapter said right now it has enough blood to meet the current demand. It is still encouraging people to schedule appointments to donate in the coming weeks to continue meeting that demand.

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