The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a statement in the Federal Register on Tuesday, in which the organization started an official reconsideration of its blood donor deferral recommendations for gay and bisexual men.

The FDA is asking for public comment on possible alternatives. Current restrictions determine that gay and bisexual men who have had sexual relationships during the last year cannot donate blood. This measure was established on December 2015. It was an overturn from a previous policy that banned all donations from men who have sex with other men (MSM).

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The U.S. Red Cross is currently facing a shortage of blood reserves. Image credit: Borgen Magazine

The original policy was stated in 1985 to reduce the risk of transmitting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through blood transfusions. The federal organization is now reconsidering the current deferral recommendations, which have been considered “purely discriminatory” by legislators and experts.

Pressures came after donators for victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting were rejected

Many of the wounded victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando were in need of blood transfusions to survive. Most of the residents and friends that were willing to collaborate were gay men. They were not allowed to donate, even though they were healthy.

Almost a week after the massacre took place, Democrats led by Mike Quigley, vice-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, demanding the agency to lift the current policy and replace it with an individual risk assessment. The letter was signed by a total of 116 members of congress.

“We are concerned that the 12-month deferral policy, which suggests that the sexual relationships of MSM men and transgender women inherently pose a risk of HIV transmission, furthers a stigma that we have persistently fought to eliminate,” the letter says.

The FDA statement, to be officially released on Thursday, has opened the door for the public to submit comments and alternatives for the controversial banning. The public docket is available for comments backed by scientific evidence and studies.

It seems like the federal agency is looking forward to lifting the ban, as long as the revisions to the policies support the reducement of HIV transmission risk.

Currently, the FDA does not only prevent gay men from donating blood but also people who consume drugs, people who have traveled to certain countries or have gotten a tattoo or a piercing in the past 12 months. The FDA has opened a website for comments on the deferral recommendations.

Source: NY Daily News