The US federal government is loosening restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men in light of a blood shortage brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
In revised guidelines published, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended a three-month deferral for men who have sex with men. The previous policy was a full year ban. According to the FDA, the COVID19 pandemic has caused "unprecedented challenges" to the national blood supply.
The new guidelines will remain in place throughout the pandemic and will be updated to incorporate public comment within 60 days of the emergency being lifted.
Donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives. The American Red Cross announced last month nearly 2,700 blood drives, where the organization collects more than 80 percent of its blood donations, had been canceled due to the pandemic.
The FDA said experience in other countries like the United Kingdom and Canada with a three-month deferral and improved testing led the agency to make the change.
The three-month deferral also applies to those who recently got tattoos or piercings, as well as former sex workers or injection drug users, who were previously indefinitely banned from donating.