Celebrating Diversity, Inclusivity, and Equity in Blood Donation
National Blood Donor Month is observed every January to honor voluntary blood donors and encourage people to give blood at a time when more of this critical resource is needed. Due to holiday celebrations, inclement weather, and cold and flu season, the winter months are often a time of reduced donations and an increased risk for blood shortages. In fact, right now the nation’s blood supply is low with only a one- to two-day supply. Our blood centers need blood donations, so potential donors are encouraged to act now.
Donating helps people in need and helps people in your community. The donation process can take as little as 45 minutes but can make a lifelong difference for someone else. Learn more about donating blood from HHS’ Giving=Living campaign. Find a blood donation center near you.
Updated Blood Donor Screening Guidelines More Inclusive
The 2024 theme for National Blood Donor Month is “Celebrating Diversity, Inclusivity, and Equity in Blood Donation.” Among the reasons that this theme is so appropriate for this year’s observance is that this is the first National Blood Donor Month since the updated FDA blood donor screening recommendations went into effect. The revised screening questions are part of the systems in place to protect the nation’s blood supply from HIV and other blood-borne diseases that can be spread through transfusion of donated blood and blood products.
Announced in May 2023, the new evidence-based FDA blood donor screening recommendations focus on individual risk with questions about a person’s behavior that may expose them to HIV. The previous donor screening recommendations relied on sexual orientation and restricted sexually active gay and bisexual men from giving blood for three months following their most recent sexual encounter. Under the new guidelines, now in effect nationwide, every potential blood donor—regardless of gender or sexual orientation—is asked the same screening questions. Blood donation is then allowed or not, based on individual risk of HIV and other blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C. The categorical deferral for gay men was eliminated.
“The updated approach to blood donor screening continues to protect the blood supply and is now a more inclusive process that treats all potential donors with equality and respect, allowing individuals who were previously ineligible or subjected to extended deferrals to make life-saving blood donations,” observed James Berger, Senior Advisor for Blood and Tissue Safety, Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, HHS.
Blood Donor Screening Guidelines Defer PrEP Users
Under the latest FDA blood donor eligibility screening guidelines, individuals using HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV acquisition are asked to wait three months from their last oral dose of PrEP or two years from their last injection to donate blood. In announcing the final revised guidelines, the FDA explained, “Though these antiretroviral drugs are safe, effective, and an important public health tool, the available data demonstrate that their use may delay detection of HIV by currently licensed screening tests for blood donations, which may potentially give false negative results.” In other words, PrEP usage may interfere with HIV detection in donated blood and may increase the likelihood of a unit of donated blood falsely testing negative for HIV. The FDA and blood donor organizations do not encourage individuals to stop using PrEP to donate blood.
What You Can Do
If you are eligible to donate blood, consider making an appointment to donate today—then donate again and again to ensure there is a steady, ongoing supply to help those in need. Visit the Giving=Living website to find a donation center near you. There, you can also learn about donor eligibility and the donation process and get answers to common questions and concerns. You can also educate others about who is eligible to donate blood, particularly gay men who may now be eligible due to the revised screening guidelines.
“Remember, when you give, others live. That’s because donating blood just once can help save more than one life,” added Mr. Berger.