FDA finally gets over their 80s-era homophobia and eases blood donation guidelines

Originally published at: FDA finally gets over their 80s-era homophobia and eases blood donation guidelines | Boing Boing


It’ll feel good to not have to lie in order to save lives any more. (Technically I haven’t had to since 2020, but that’s only because being a full-time caretaker for a family member with advanced Alzheimer’s completely destroys one’s sex life, social life, and life in general).


Is anyone familiar enough with the processing part of the process to fill me in on how load-bearing the donor questionnaire is vs. whatever testing is done on the blood prior to use?

Is it just a matter of the testing and processing cost being high enough that there’s a desire to avoid even starting with blood whose odds of passing are suspected of being particularly low; or are there blind spots covered only by donor reports rather than any controls in place at the processing stage?

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Unfortunately I still can’t give because of having lived a year in the UK in the early 90s. I still haven’t started moo-ing, though, even after all this time.

Edit: oh, looks like that finally got reversed last year!


I should finally schedule my first blood donor appointment!

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I can give a lot of the answer, but not the entirety of the answer. I spent several years working at a company that made over 50% of all blood donation materials in the US so had to learn a lot.

First off, on the questionnaire, there’s two reasons for all the questions - to avoid wasting your time and avoid wasting their time. If you are going to be scared off by 10m of questions and minor tests, there might be reasons to not intake you. Also, the materials for donation are fairly costly because there’s a metric ton of science involved. I loved working at the blood place because I learned more than I did at a job since my first job. Blood is the only thing we’ve never truly found an alternative for - if you lose blood, all we can ever do is put more blood in you. Thousands of alternates have gone through clinical trials and while there are a handful that are approved for pets, zero exist for humans. As such, blood is, essentially, priceless. It’s also a market that very sadly has a LOT of money involved in it. But back on the science side, there’s a lot involved in that bag to store your blood/platelets/plasma so that it can eventually make it to someone.

On the testing side, again simplified because it depends what you’ve donated (whole blood gets separated into it’s components, for example), it goes through a dozen or so tests. These are obvious ones like Hep B/C and HIV, and diseases you forget about until mosquito season like Zika and West Nile. Each company that does the blood processing will have a list on their website explaining most if not all the tests they do. Anything positive or questionable means that unit gets tossed. All that screening beforehand helps to make sure there isn’t many of this, but it does happen. A lot of the questions also address possiblities, like living abroad or visiting “questionable” locales (which puts you at odds to have one of these diseases, and depending on need level, may have you rejected outright rather than take the donation and have it tossed after testing, costing thousands of dollars).

I have noticed that over the past few years, the timing on donation has been heavily reduced for both homosexual males as well as tattoos, which I think is great. Assuming there’s no risk of disease transmission, anything that gets more donations in is fantastic. I’m the only one who donates in my family, with all the others telling me they couldn’t do it for the needle, etc. I’m freaking terrified of the needle, but I’ve literally had a family member’s life saved because of two units of blood so I deal with the dang needle. Had some major surgery last year and made a point to do a double red donation before since I knew I couldn’t donate for a while, and they just called me because I’m eligible as of this weekend and hadn’t been in. I was pretty much a regular every 8 weeks for the past 3 years.


So I scheduled myself an appointment for the day after I discovered this.

I went in yesterday and did the questionnaire, and then they looked me up on the computer and said I had been indefinitely deferred. Apparently because I had already tried once and been rejected (during Covid I thought they had already relaxed the requirements about living in the UK to deal with shortages, but they hadn’t) the computer had blocked me.

So I now have to call a number to get myself unblocked before they’ll take my blood.

So if you’ve ever been rejected before, make sure you call and get yourself corrected in the system before walking in to try to give blood.


Thank you, you’re a hero many times over. Your post is encouraging me to get back into the habit. I used to be a regular donor but, like others, kind of fell away after international travel made everything unclear.
In tangential news, I wonder how many of those people decrying the COVID vaccines and starting their “pure blood” dating sites would forego transfusions since they can’t be tested for having gotten the vaccine? :unamused:

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Not a hero…I’m doing it in a somewhat selfish manner to try to repay the anonymous person who saved my family member with their donation, but also to address a need that I logically know cannot be met in any other way.

I hope it helps you get back on the habit! Donating to any of the companies that handle it helps. There certainly are ones that are better or worse, but overall, they all help people at the end of the day, internal business practices being shady or not.

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I’m not sure where you are (or whether it’s a location thing or maybe an age thing) but I’m limited to four times a year, so closer to 12 weeks. I started again in 2021 after a 20+year hiatus, in part because mum was diagnosed with leukaemia and like you, giving blood was my way of giving back.

I’ve also started giving plasma which I’m allowed to do as often as every fortnight. The process is a bit longer and more involved (and the final flush of saline feels like the rinse cycle😃) but it means I’m able to help more often.


Here’s the requirements for Vitalant, formerly Lifesource, which is the company I donate at. US guidelines are minimum 56 days and no more than 6 times a year, iirc.

In the US, plasma donations are the only donations they are legally allowed to pay for. I used to work on the machines most commonly used for it. They’re commonly found in college towns as people turn around and use that money for beer. I hope you’re not doing (whole) blood and plasma, as I believe that would an unhealthy amount of fluid loss, but I am not a medical professional.

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I do give both but you can’t give plasma within two weeks before or two weeks after whole blood. The blood bank has a nifty app to keep your records and to make bookings, and it only allows you to make bookings after the required interval.

(My current booking is for 18 Feb, so the soonest I can book for is two weeks later. It’s also been more than 12 weeks since whole blood, so that’ll probably be the next one.)

I’m not aware that anyone is paid for donations here. Not sure if that’s a regulatory thing though.

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