With the global coronavirus pandemic not looking to slow down anytime soon, a blood shortage isn’t something that you want to happen. But this is precisely what happened because fears about the virus have driven down blood drives.

In a bid to boost the blood supply, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has changed the guidelines governing queer men and blood donations. While previous guidelines barred them from donating unless they abstained from sexual activity for 12 months, the new rules now require only three months of abstinence.

As reported by Out, the change comes from pressure applied by politicians and organizations like GLAAD on the FDA to relax these rules especially in the face of a global pandemic.

For instance, Democratic Representatives Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Carolyn Maloney have called on the FDA to revise this policy, saying that the 12-month guideline is “antiquated” and “not based on current science, stigmatizes the LGBTQIA+ community, and undermines crucial efforts to increase the nation’s blood supply.”

GLAAD also came up with a petition made up of 20,000 signatures calling for the change in the guidelines.

The need to change these rules became even more apparent because of the coronavirus pandemic. People who have recovered from COVID-19 can donate their plasma and its antibodies so that they can be injected into those in critical condition because of the illness. However, the restriction has barred queer men from helping out.

This happened to 39-year-old gay man Sabri Ben-Achour. After recovering from COVID-19, he volunteered to donate his plasma and the antibodies in it to help out other patients but was prevented from doing so by the FDA regulations.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, called the decision “a victory” and “a step towards being more in line with science.”

In this time of pandemic, giving blood is something that we can all do to help.

If you are a queer man in the United States who has recovered from COVID-19 and fit the new FDA regulations for donating blood, you can use the AABB Blood Bank locator to find out the nearest place where you can donate.

For queer men in Canada that fit the country’s guidelines for donating blood, you can use the Canadian Blood Services website  to find a donor centre near you.

Elsewhere in the world, you can visit and donate blood at your local chapters of the International Federation of the Red Cross.

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