Blood Donation and COVID-19: Reconsidering the 3-Month Deferral Policy for Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Other Men Who Have Sex With Men

Am J Public Health. 2021 Feb;111(2):247-252. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2020.305974. Epub 2020 Nov 19.


In April 2020, in light of COVID-19-related blood shortages, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reduced the deferral period for men who have sex with men (MSM) from its previous duration of 1 year to 3 months.Although originally born out of necessity, the decades-old restrictions on MSM donors have been mitigated by significant advancements in HIV screening, treatment, and public education. The severity of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic-and the urgent need for safe blood products to respond to such crises-demands an immediate reconsideration of the 3-month deferral policy for MSM.We review historical HIV testing and transmission evidence, discuss the ethical ramifications of the current deferral period, and examine the issue of noncompliance with donor deferral rules. We also propose an eligibility screening format that involves an individual risk-based screening protocol and, unlike current FDA guidelines, does not effectively exclude donors on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Our policy proposal would allow historically marginalized community members to participate with dignity in the blood donation process without compromising blood donation and transfusion safety outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Donors / ethics*
  • Blood Safety / standards*
  • Blood Transfusion / standards*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / therapy
  • COVID-19 / transmission
  • Donor Selection / standards*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Health Policy
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Transgender Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • United States