Ask Kim: Are Gay Men Eligible for Blood Donation?

Dear Kim, 

I heard that the Red Cross recently changed their rules about blood donation. Does this mean gay and bisexual men can donate now? What are the rules? I would like to help others by donating blood, and I’m a bi man, so I want to know about eligibility first. 

Thank you, 

Want to Give 

Dear Want to Give, 

You’re right – in August, the Red Cross made their new screening process public. Instead of having eligibility rules based on sexual orientation, they now ask everyone the same questions, which are based on risk behaviors, including sexual risk.  

One of the biggest changes is that instead of asking if you are a man who has sex with men, they ask whether the potential donor has had anal sex with a new partner, multiple partners, or anyone who has tested positive for HIV in the past 3 months. Since anal sex is higher-risk for HIV than oral and vaginal sex, the Red Cross and FDA consider it relevant to blood donation risk, while acknowledging that gay men are not the only people who engage in anal sex.  

The other question they ask is about sex work – whether you have or recently had sex with somebody who has received drugs, money, or other goods in exchange for sex. Statistically, sex workers are at higher risk for HIV infection, so the Red Cross and FDA do not consider them eligible. 

The reason that they chose three months for the risk period is because HIV can take up to three months to be detectable in tests. All blood donations are screened for HIV, so the Red Cross and FDA want to ensure that any HIV infection will show up when the blood is tested. Before three months, it is possible to miss an HIV infection with the tests we currently have available. 

If you are a gay man and are not in the risk categories the Red Cross screens for, then you are likely eligible to donate! To find out about other disqualifiers, head over to their FAQ page: 

Be well, be yourself, 


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