UPDATE: Gay and bisexual men wanted for blood donor study [VIDEO]

Editor’s Note: The article below was originally published on June 30, 2021. However, in early 2022, HIV.gov issued a call to action via a blog post titled “Participants Needed in Blood Donor Study: Could Lead to Eligibility Changes for Men Who Have Sex with Men We are republishing our original article to bring the study to your attention.

To gay and bisexual men who would like to be able to donate blood: Eight LGBTQ community centers across the country are participating in federal research that may eventually expand the eligibility of men who have sex with men to donate blood.

Specifically, for the ADVANCE (Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility) study, which is currently underway, eight LGBTQ community centers are working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and three of the nation’s largest blood centers. to collect data – and they are looking for participants.

As the video at the top of this article explains (you can watch it on YouTube here), current FDA guidelines state that a man cannot donate blood if he has had sexual contact with another man. over the past three months. In other words, gay and bi men must be celibate for three months before they can donate blood.

Arguably, the three-month deferral is a big improvement over the previous policy, which required a year of celibacy from gay and bisexual donors. This policy was updated in April 2020.

But is a time-based deferment system the best way to measure a donor’s risk of having HIV? Is it possible that an updated questionnaire, given before donating blood, could better assess a person’s risk and thus enable more gay men to donate blood?

The three-month period is not arbitrary. As the researchers explain in the video, this takes into account the period after an HIV infection when the virus may not show up in some tests. A person tested during the window period might receive a negative result when in fact the person is HIV positive and has no symptoms.

Blood supply screening tests are very sensitive, but a small risk might exist during the window period. The new research hopes to establish whether self-assessment of risk via the questionnaire is as effective as the three-month deferral period.

The ADVANCE study aims to recruit a total of approximately 2,000 gay and bisexual men in LGBTQ community centers, including approximately 250-300 in each of the following cities:

  • Atlanta
  • Los Angeles
  • Memphis
  • Miami
  • New Orleans/Baton Rouge
  • Orlando
  • San Francisco
  • Washington DC.

Three blood collection centers – the American Red Cross, OneBlood and Valiant – are working on the study. According to a press release from the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which is participating in the study, these three blood centers account for 60% of the nation’s blood supply.

“The elimination of the archaic FDA blood donation policy for gay and bisexual men is long overdue. The decades-old policy was enacted at a time when there was little scientific data on the mechanisms of HIV transmission and the epidemic was concentrated in the gay community,” said the chief medical officer of the LGBT centre, Robert Bolan, MD, in the press release. “The center is eager to contribute, through the ADVANCE study, to ending the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS and the discrimination that targets gay and bisexual men.

“If the scientific evidence supports the use of the different questions, this could mean that gay and bisexual men who come forward to donate would be assessed on their own individual risk of HIV infection and not on when where their last sexual contact with another man took place,” added Susan Stramer, PhD, vice president of scientific affairs at American Red Cross Biomedical Services.

To learn more about the ADVANCE study, including how to register, visit ADVANCEstudy.org.

In related news, check out this POZ article on World Blood Donor Day (observed June 14) to learn more about the country’s blood supply and to hear more about artist Jordan Eagles, whose Queer Blood America artwork for awareness day fights discriminatory FDA ban.

“Untitled” (detail), 2018, 84″ x 28″ x 3″, original 1971 Action Comics, used blood collection bag with needle, residual blood from a homosexual on PrEP; plexiglass, UV resinCourtesy of UAB/Kris Graves

Earlier this year, in an article titled “Fighting for Your Right…to Donate Blood,” POZ wrote about Eagles’ solo show Can you save Superman? IIfor which he used superhero comics and blood donated by people living with HIV and gay men on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The ADVANCE study isn’t the only research involving LGBTQ health and community centers. Several are currently collaborating on an effort to track their customers’ COVID-19 experiences. For more details, see COVID Health’s article, “Ensuring LGBTQ people are counted in COVID-19 data.”

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