The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a ban against men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood. This ban was implemented in fear that HIV would inadvertently be spread through blood transfusions at the onset of the HIV epidemic when HIV/AIDS was still largely not understood. Under the ban, no man who has had sex with another man even once since 1977 is allowed to donate blood. The ban was lifetime from September 1985 until December 2015, where it was reduced to a 1 year gap since the last sexual encounter with another man. This includes individuals who are HIV negative, practice safe sex or are in monogamous relationships. The MSM blood bans reinforces negative stereotypes about gay and bisexual men, it creates a false idea of low risk of transmission of HIV within heterosexual relationships and reduces the availability of blood across the country. This ban bars an estimated 130,000 gay and bisexual men from donating 219,000 pints of blood annually. Current studies have found that lifting the ban would cause little risk to blood supply due to technologies that could pick up the presence of HIV or HIV antibodies within a blood donation. All blood donations are tested for HIV, among other pathogens such as hepatitis C, according to the CDC which indicates that this blood ban is rooted in discrimination and homophobia.
Due to restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, blood donations have declined, and the United States is facing a blood shortage. According to the Red Cross, during March there were 86,000 fewer blood donations across the U.S. due to drives being cancelled. The FDA announced in April that they have relaxed restrictions against MSM individuals, instead of having to wait 1 year from last intercourse with another man, they have to wait 3 months. The restrictions will be revised again after the COVID-19 emergency declaration has been lifted, with feedback from the public. This is an opportunity to have the discriminatory and useless ban removed which will help reduce stigma and negative attitudes towards the LGBTQ community.