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Citing Blood Shortage, County Officials Ask FDA To Allow Donations From Gay And Bisexual Men

A person wearing purple gloves works on a bag of donated blood. Blood vials and a laptop keyboard are also visible.
A Red Cross technician prepares a bag of donated blood.
(ARIANA DREHSLER
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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Amid a critical blood shortage, L.A. County Supervisors are calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to immediately end to blood donor restrictions on gay and bisexual men.

Current FDA rules require gay and bisexual men to abstain from sex for at least three months before donating blood. Supervisor Janice Hahn described the restriction as "outdated and discriminatory."

“We know that every unit of blood that is donated is already rigorously tested to detect any traits of HIV, syphilis, hepatitis, West Nile virus, or other blood borne diseases,” she said. “So there's no reason for people to be concerned that this population can't help us out.”

The current blood shortage is in part a result of the pandemic closing down many donation locations. The shortage is affecting the entire country.

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"The nation is facing the lowest blood supply in over a decade,” Raahima Yazdani, regional communications and development manager with the American Red Cross in L.A., told our newsroom in December.

The FDA banned blood donations from gay and bisexual men in the early 1980s, over fears about the spread of HIV/AIDS. The ban was lifted in 2015, when a waiting period of one year was imposed on men who have had sex with men.

Regulations were further relaxed in 2020, when the waiting period was shortened from one year to three months.

According to Hahn, L.A. County’s large gay population could provide hundreds of thousands badly needed pints of blood. Last month, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center had to shut down for several hours due to a blood shortage.

Hahn said that it’s time to lift the restriction because it's “endangering people’s lives.”

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