For years, he couldn’t donate at the blood center where he worked. Under new FDA rules, now he can

Dec 21, 2023, 10:16 PM

Aaron Posey, a Bloodworks Northwest executive, donates blood at the blood center's Seattle headquar...

Aaron Posey, a Bloodworks Northwest executive, donates blood at the blood center's Seattle headquarters on Dec. 14, 2023. New federal guidelines that dropped an abstinence requirement before gay men in monogamous relationships can give blood are opening a new pool of potential donors. Posey, whose own life was saved by a transfusion when he fell down a set of stairs and broken glass sliced an artery, welcomed the new guidance, saying hospitals and patients need access to a new pool of donors. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)

(AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — Over the last six years, blood center employee Dylan Smith was often asked how frequently he gave blood himself. His answer was always the same: As a gay man, he couldn’t.

That changed this month.

Thanks to new federal guidelines finalized in May, gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships can now donate at many blood centers around the country without abstaining from sex.

Bloodworks Northwest, where Smith works as a donor services supervisor, adopted the change on Dec. 6. He and his partner gave blood for the first time the next day.

“It’s been really emotionally difficult just to explain every single time the reason why,” said Smith, 28. “To be able to finally step up and support the mission that I really have just believed in since I started here just makes my heart feel so happy.”

The new U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines are the latest step in a yearslong effort to reverse restrictions that were designed to protect the blood supply from HIV, but which were increasingly criticized as discriminatory following scientific advances that allowed better detection of the virus.

In 2015, the FDA dropped the lifetime ban on donations from men who have sex with men and replaced it with a one-year abstinence requirement. The agency shortened the abstinence period to three months in 2020 after donations plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Red Cross, which accounts for about 40% of blood and blood component donations in the U.S., began implementing the new guidance in August.

About half of the 16 independent blood bank organizations that are members of the Alliance for Community Transfusion Services have rolled out the new guidelines, with more expected next year, the organization said.

“It is going to take time,” said Benjamin Prijatel, president of Shepeard Community Blood Center in Augusta, Georgia. “Blood centers and health professionals are going to have to put forth the effort to engage and educate this community in order to overcome years of distrust. That’s the only way this rule change will translate into additional donations.”

The change puts the emphasis on sexual activity rather than on sexual orientation. All potential donors are screened with a new questionnaire evaluating their HIV risk based on sexual behavior, partners and other factors that can contribute to the spread of blood-borne infections, such as intravenous drug use or recent tattoos or piercings.

Potential donors who report having anal sex with new partners in the last three months are barred from giving until a later date, and anyone who has ever tested positive for HIV will continue to be ineligible. Those taking pills to prevent HIV through sexual contact are still barred until three months after their last dose; the medications, known as PrEP, can delay the detection of the virus, the FDA said.

Donated blood is then tested for HIV, hepatitis C, syphilis and other infectious diseases.

Bloodworks Northwest, which supplies blood to more than 90 hospitals in the region, isn’t keeping track of how many newly eligible donors are coming in, said Dr. Kirsten Alcorn, the nonprofit’s co-chief medical officer. But workers have heard plenty of stories from people excited to give.

“It feels very meaningful to many of them to now be able to contribute to somebody’s survival,” Alcorn said.

Bloodworks executive Aaron Posey, whose own life was saved by a transfusion when he fell down a set of stairs and broken glass sliced an artery, welcomed the new guidance. He said hospitals and patients need access to a new pool of donors.

“Having always witnessed a shortage in the blood supply, it has at times been very frustrating,” said Posey, who first donated blood during the pandemic when the abstinence period was cut to three months.

Smith learned of the restrictions on gay men giving blood when he was screened while trying to donate his freshman year of college in 2013. The rules blindsided him, he said. It was a long time to wait before he could finally donate with his partner and other friends.

“Just being able to see them donating next to me, smiling next to me … meant so much,” Smith said.

United States News

Associated Press

Bill headed to South Dakota governor would allow museum’s taxidermy animals to find new homes

South Dakota’s Legislature has made it easier for the city of Sioux Falls to find new homes for more than 150 taxidermy animals of its arsenic-contaminated menagerie. The mounted lion, tiger, polar bear and gorilla were part of display that filled a natural history museum at the state’s largest zoo. But when testing in August […]

31 minutes ago

Migrants unload their items off a bus as they arrive at a bus stop after leaving a processing facil...

Associated Press

Border Patrol releases hundreds of migrants at a bus stop after San Diego runs out of aid money

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Hundreds of migrants were dropped off Friday at a San Diego bus stop instead of at a reception center that had been serving as a staging area because it ran out of local funding sooner than expected, showing how even the largest city on the country’s southern border is struggling to […]

31 minutes ago

Associated Press

Seaplane crashes near PortMiami, all 7 passengers escape without injury, officials say

MIAMI (AP) — A seaplane overturned Friday afternoon while trying to land near PortMiami, but no serious injuries were reported, officials said. The aircraft came down in a channel between the port’s cruise ship terminals and a causeway that connects Miami to Miami Beach, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. The single-engine Cessna 208 was trying […]

34 minutes ago

Associated Press

Alabama Senate OKs bill targeting college diversity efforts

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers have advanced legislation aimed at prohibiting universities, schools and public entities from maintaining diversity and inclusion offices or funding initiatives that teach what Republicans labeled as “divisive concepts.” The multi-pronged proposal is one of dozens of bills introduced by Republican lawmakers across the country that would restrict initiatives on […]

48 minutes ago

Associated Press

Wyoming starts selecting presidential delegates Saturday. But there’s not a statewide election

WASHINGTON (AP) — Although the South Carolina primary has been the focal point of the GOP presidential nomination fight for much of the last month, it’s not the only contest on Saturday where Republicans will be voting for a presidential candidate or where all-important delegates will be at stake. More than 1,800 miles away, state […]

60 minutes ago

Associated Press

A search warrant reveals additional details about a nonbinary teen’s death in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A recently released police search warrant has revealed more details in the case of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary Oklahoma student who died a day after a high school bathroom fight that may have been prompted by bullying over gender identity. The warrant filed Wednesday in Tulsa County District Court shows that […]

1 hour ago

Sponsored Articles


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

For years, he couldn’t donate at the blood center where he worked. Under new FDA rules, now he can