The FDA on April 2nd relaxed its restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood after a decades-long ban.
But the New York Blood Center says it can’t implement those changes until early June, even as it put out an urgent call for donors.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration previously banned men who’ve had sex with men from donating blood unless they’ve been celibate for one year. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the FDA amended those guidelines to allow for donations from men who’ve refrained from sex with other men for three months.
State Senator Brad Hoylman who is openly gay, said he qualified to donate under the new rules and tried to give blood at a New York Blood Center facility on May 6 but was turned away.
The New York Blood Center in a statement cited administrative hurdles to its adoption of the eased restrictions. A spokesperson said the organization was an advocate for the FDA changes.
“We have been waiting for the FDA to approve the language in our donor questionnaire that details these changes,” the spokesperson said. “We received that at the end of last week and immediately began the process of modifying our computer systems, updating all of our procedures and training our 400 staff members.”
The organization hopes to welcome new donors by early June.
It simultaneously put out a call for healthy blood donors, saying earlier this week that the “need for blood has rebounded to pre-COVID-19 levels, but the blood supply is dangerously low.” It anticipated greater need as regions of the state reopen and elective surgeries begin again.
“I'm glad that in response to concerns by the LGBTQ community — including both Lukus Estok, a gay COVID-19 survivor, who was turned away from donating plasma, and now me — the New York Blood Center has announced a timeline for updating its donation protocols,” Hoylman said in a statement.
But he added, “With such a dire need for donations, it’s a shame eligible gay and bisexual men still can’t donate blood to the New York Blood Center.”
He asked the New York Blood Center to join in his push for a full reversal of the FDA ban on gay male donors.
“This policy is rooted in homophobia and limits our nation’s supply of blood and plasma, which I know you agree is more crucial than ever for the research and treatment of COVID-19,” he said.