Breaking News
More () »

Bloodworks Northwest updates guidelines to remove donation obstacle for gay, bisexual men: HealthLink

The updated guidance comes from the FDA and went into effect on Wednesday.

SEATTLE — Bloodworks Northwest implemented recently updated guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday that removed a significant barrier for gay and bisexual men.

Potential blood donors will now all be asked the same questions during the intake process, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

Previously, men who planned to donate were asked if they had sexual contact with another man in the three months prior to the donation date. If they had, the person was not eligible to donate.

The new policy will ask all donors, no matter their gender, a pair of questions connected to sexual history. Potential donors will be asked if they have had anal sex with either a new partner or more than one partner in the past three months.

"Anyone who has had sexual contact with a new partner or more than one partner and who has had anal sex in the past three months is at an increased risk for transmitting HIV and other infectious diseases and is deferred for three months," the updated criteria from Bloodworks NW reads.

“We’re so excited that we’ve moved away from the question being based on men who have sex with men and even their female sex partners to an individual risk assessment, which asks specifically about high-risk behaviors,” Dr. Kirsten Alcorn, co-chief medical officer of BloodWorks Northwest said on KING 5's New Day Northwest in November.

While the FDA got rid of the old requirements in May this year, Bloodworks NW spent the next several months updating their data systems to accommodate the change. 

"It takes months for a change of this magnitude to go into effect," Alcorn said.

The new questionnaire also asks every potential donor whether they have ever been pregnant or ever had a transfusion.

On the first week of December, donor John Rubino stood in line at Bloodworks NW to finally give blood. 

Some years ago, during the height of the pandemic, Rubino wanted to donate his convalescent plasma but was turned away. 

"You know, it's discriminatory, so it's been a little bit of a pain in the neck for me who, especially when I had COVID and wanted to donate my convalescent plasma, and was denied, it was gut wrenching," Rubino said. 

Rubino can now donate freely and said he hopes other will too. 

"The LGBTQ+ community in Seattle is pretty big. So if we can get a percentage of that population now donating blood, I think that it will make a difference," Rubino said.

Other blood banks like the American Red Cross have been accepting blood from gay donors since August, when it implemented its changes. More information can be found here.

Before You Leave, Check This Out