By now maybe you’ve heard the exciting news: The American Red Cross has partnered with the FDA and several other blood centers for the ADVANCE Study, an opportunity to gather data that could lead to changes in donor eligibility requirements to be more inclusive for gay and bisexual men and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Launched in 2021, this groundbreaking study (which stands for Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility) is focused on evaluating alternatives to the FDA’s blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men (MSM). In April 2020, the FDA adopted the three-month deferral policy. This policy shortened the deferral period for men who have had sex with another man to be deferred from donating blood for three months following the most recent sexual contact with another man.
This study is a first step in determining if these donor deferral requirements can be adjusted. This would mean a change to the donor history questionnaire, allowing donors to disclose information that could better assess individual risk factors that could indicate possible infection with a transfusion transmissible infection, including HIV.
Participants in the study (ranging between the ages of 18-39 years old) will have a blood sample drawn for HIV testing and answer different questions designed to determine individual HIV risk factors. The findings of this study will help determine the next steps that would be needed to modify the donor history questionnaire.
To gather the necessary data, blood centers are partnering with LGBTQ+ Centers in Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, California; Orlando, Florida; New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Miami, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; Los Angeles, California; and Atlanta, Georgia. The study seeks to enroll a total of 2,000 participants who meet the study eligibility criteria. This collaborative partnership allows for local LGBTQ+ communities to become active participants for positive change, something that the Red Cross believes in strongly. If you live in one of the study locations and meet the eligibility criteria, please consider registering as a participant to help the study be successful.
At the Red Cross, we want to foster an inclusive environment that embraces diversity for everyone. We believe blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation and we are committed to achieving this goal.
Want to learn more about the study, the participants, and the organizations involved? You can read all about one participant’s experience here and view an interactive map of all the participating regions on this story map.