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ARUP to accept blood donations from gay, bisexual men

It’s where compassion meets progress.

ARUP Blood Services has been at the forefront of blood donations for decades. Now, it’s making history. ARUP is the first blood donation service not only in Utah, but nationwide to adapt to the new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)​ guidelines that allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

“This is a great first step for us to improve inclusivity,” said Waseem Anani, M.D., medical director for ARUP Blood Services in a press conference. “We look forward to future changes.”

On May 11, 2023, the FDA announced it was easing restrictions on blood donations from this population of men. ARUP Blood Services implemented these new changes on July 18.

“I truly hope that these changes will give us new donors and energize blood donations so that we can continue to meet our patient needs and take of those most vulnerable,” said Ryan Metcalf, M.D., CQA, medical director for Transfusion Services for ARUP Blood Services.

The new guidelines have updated the HIV risk assessment and added more inclusive language to the questionnaire for donors. Ultimately eliminating the three-month deferral period for this community.

The new FDA guidance no longer asks donors sexual orientation-specific questions. Every donor will be asked:

“Have you had a new sexual partner/more than one partner in the past 3 months?”

  • If “No,” no other questions will be asked about sexual activity.
  • If “Yes,” you will be asked, “Have you had anal intercourse in the past 3 months?”
  • If “Yes,” you will be deferred for 3 months from the date of the last occurrence.

ARUP Blood Services recognizes the hurt this policy may have caused many in the LGBTQ+ community and believes blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based on sexual orientation.

Visit ARUP’s LGBTQ+ Donor Information page to see a full list of frequently asked questions.

“These questions, now that they’re more inclusive, allow for gay and bisexual men to donate, whereas in the past they were deferred or unable to donate,” Anani said.

It’s a profound turning point reflecting on how far we’ve come since the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the 1980s when the FDA completely prohibited gay and bisexual men from donating to protect the blood supply.

Not only does this change welcome new donors, but it opens up the donor pool in the greater Salt Lake Valley.

Anani says an estimated 35% of this population of men are now eligible to donate. This is a big deal since it’s ARUP Blood Services is the sole blood supplier to the University of Utah Hospital and the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

“We have to be ready for them at any moment for surgeries, planned transfusions, for example, chemotherapy patients or trauma patients that come in unexpectedly that need a lot of blood,” Anani added.

Blood centers already regularly test donated blood for HIV. And, with today’s latest technology ARUP Blood Services assures the blood supply is safer than it ever has been.

“There actually has not been a single HIV transfusion-transmitted case since the 1980s,” Anani said.

Advocates have responded to the news with positivity.

“I think this is a really exciting change and while it might take a while to get the ball rolling, I think a lot of people are going to look back on this and realize how monumental this was, not just for the queer community, but for all the people that will be able to receive blood from them,” said Margaret Jelte, a member of the LGBTQIA+ Engagement Group for ARUP Blood Services.

And experts are embracing this progressive step forward.

“In my opinion, these are the best donors that we potentially have because the queer community believes in inclusiveness, love, and altruism,” Anani said.

ARUP ​Blood Services has two donor centers: Research Park Donor Center and Sandy Donor Center. Walk-ins are welcome, but donors with appointments take priority. To schedule an appointment by phone, call 801-584-5272. To schedule a visit online, click here.