Breaking News
More () »

Red Cross study looks to eliminate blood donation requirements for LGBTQ+ men

The organization said they need participants for their study.

ATLANTA — A study by the American Red Cross seeks to eliminate requirements related to how the FDA handles blood donations in the LGBTQ+ community, but they need more participants. 

In 2016, the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting uncovered a large bias against men who have sex with men (MSM) in the LGBTQ+ community. When numerous victims of the shooting were in desperate need of blood, these men were completely barred from donating due to FDA policies. 

RELATED: Atlanta gay, bisexual men needed for federal blood donor study

Currently, FDA donation regulations state men who have sex with men must defer from donating blood until three months after their last sexual encounter, but the Red Cross is working with the federal agency to eliminate all restrictions through the FDA-funded ADVANCE study. 

ADVANCE – which stands for Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility – is focused on significant changes to blood donor eligibility for men who have sex with men. It targets eight metropolitan areas with high rates of HIV infections or active pre-exposure prophylaxis programs (PrEP), including Memphis, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington D.C., New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Miami, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

"The fact that the FDA is actually funding the study is huge," Josh Stowell said, who is an ADVANCE study participant. "That means they want to work with us and eliminate this, but they just need data."

RELATED: Blood donations were needed following the Pulse nightclub mass shooting. Here’s why so many were turned away

Since 2021, the study has worked to enroll 2,000 MSM (250-300 people per city) from these areas to acquire the necessary data needed by the FDA to start enacting blood donor policy changes. Current ADVANCE participant Josh Stowell told 11Alive that so far, only 1500 of those slots have been filled, and with the September enrollment deadline quickly approaching, blood centers are reaching out to the community for help. 

In Atlanta, the Red Cross is still looking to fill around 50 participant slots before the end of the enrollment deadline. 

Eligibility to participate in the study includes men who have sex with men who are:

  • Between the ages of 18-39
  • HIV negative or on a prophylaxis program
  • Have had a sexual encounter with another man within the last three months
  • Live in one of the eight communities

“We want to find ways to constantly give back to our community, this is one way of doing it,” Stowell said. “So we've got to help them and by helping them, we're helping save the lives of many people.”

The study is completely confidential and requires participants to complete a questionnaire and consent to a blood sample. Those who meet all eligibility requirements will be asked to return to complete a second questionnaire. 

Participants will be compensated for their time participating in the study. 

To enroll in the ADVANCE study, visit The American Red Cross at 1955 Monroe Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30324.


Before You Leave, Check This Out