Updated on December 21 at 2:33 p.m. EST
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will remove the country’s longtime policy barring all gay and bisexual men from donating blood, the agency said Monday.
The FDA announced on its website that it would lift the blanket ban on these individuals “to reflect the most current scientific evidence.” The policy was instituted in 1983, amid the early AIDS crisis, in an attempt to prevent HIV transmission between blood donors and recipients.
“The FDA’s responsibility is to maintain a high level of blood product safety for people whose lives depend on it,” said the FDA’s Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff in a press release.“We have taken great care to ensure this policy revision is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply.”
Existing FDA policy indefinitely prohibits men who have ever had sexual contact with men from donating blood. The new policy would bar men who have had sexual contact with another man in the previous 12 months.
Gay-rights advocates, medical professionals, and others have criticized the longstanding FDA rules, saying the policy was not supported by scientific evidence and perpetuated stigmas against gay men. The National Gay Blood Drive, which has petitioned for a change to FDA regulations, welcomed the change Monday, but said in a statement that the policy is “still discriminatory” because “countless more will continue to be banned solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and without medical or scientific reasoning.”