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This summer I became a physician at the height of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic. While I will be fighting on the front lines, I will not be able to donate blood to fight the growing national crisis for blood donations. Additionally, if I become infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and survive, I will not be able to donate my convalescent plasma, a potentially important treatment. This is because I am a gay man.
On April 2, 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended its restriction on blood donations from gay men. They reduced the period that men who have sex with men (MSM) must abstain from sex from 1 year to 3 months to be allowed to donate. I am not celebrating. While the FDA claims that this change was in response to new data, the timing of this change is revealing. It took a global pandemic to overcome a discriminatory fear of gay blood. Yet the science shows that even 3-month of abstinence for all MSM is not needed, and these rules are putting lives at risk.
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Corresponding Author: Greg J. Zahner, MD, MSc, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit St, Gray Bigelow Building 7-730, Boston, MA 02114 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published Online: September 8, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.4331
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
Additional Contributions: I would like to thank Brian Custer, PhD, MPH, Jennifer Babik, MD, PhD, and Joanna Balcerek, MD, PhD, of University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), for their help in crafting this article. I would also like to thank JulieAnn McKellogg and Julia Heunis, MD for their editing guidance. They received no compensation for their contributions.
Disclaimer: The views expressed herein represent my own and do not necessarily reflect those of these individuals or of UCSF School of Medicine or Massachusetts General Hospital.
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