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ARUP Adopts New FDA Guidelines, First in Utah to Do So

The laboratory no longer places “time-based” deferrals on men who have sex with men when it comes to donating blood.
Mary Allen
A sign outside of ARUP Laboratories on the University of Utah’s campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. (Photo by Mary Allen | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Associated Regional and University Pathologists Inc.— a Salt Lake City-based laboratory — became the first blood donation center in Utah, and one of the first in the nation, to adopt new guidelines on assessing individual risk for HIV.  

The former guidelines avoided risk by placing “time-based deferrals” on men who have sex with men. It also specifically asked MSM if they had been sexually active with “a new sexual partner, or more than one sexual partner in the past three months.”

On May 11, 2023, the Food and Drug Administration got rid of these guidelines in favor of one set of questions for all patients – regardless of sexual orientation.

For U students looking to donate blood, ARUP will be holding a blood drive on Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the A. Ray Olpin Student Union building. Appointments can be scheduled here.

Dr. Waseem Anani is the director of the Immunohematology Reference Laboratory and Blood Services at ARUP. He played a leading role in ARUP’s adoption of the new guidelines. Now, he wants every current and future patient to know they will be treated equally when donating blood.

“It doesn’t matter who you are: male, female, non-binary, trans,” he said. “Irrespective of how you self-identify, we will treat everyone equally.”

Outside view of the ARUP Laboratories on the University of Utah’s campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. (Photo by Mary Allen | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Mary Allen)

The new questions ask all patients whether, in the past three months, they have had a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners and engaged in anal sex, had sex with someone who has tested positive for HIV or have taken medicines to prevent HIV infection.

The questions also ask if the patient has exchanged sex for pay or drugs, used over-the-counter injection drugs or had sex with someone who has done either of those things.

Why did the change take so long?

The HIV epidemic began in 1983. At the time, it was known that men who had sex with men were at high risk for HIV. Research also showed that HIV could be transmitted through blood.

In order to avoid the risk, sexually active gay and bisexual men were banned for life from donating blood.

Years later, scientific research found ways to avoid HIV transmission through blood. These breakthroughs included highly accurate blood tests to detect HIV and new questions that asked about risk factors for HIV and other infections that can spread through a blood donation.

The breakthroughs also implemented routine testing on donated blood so that tainted blood is not transfused.

Despite these breakthroughs, the FDA didn’t lift the life-long ban on gay and bisexual men until 2015, when they allowed donations if the patient had been abstinent for a year. In 2020, they revised the ban to three months, which was a result of low blood donations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anani said the new guidelines will boost blood supply as it will open the door to a larger population of donors. He estimated that “30% to 35% of men who are gay and bisexual will now be eligible to donate based on the new policy.”

Harry Hawkins, director of the LGBT Resource Center at the University of Utah, said that the change has been a long time coming.

“Folks have been advocating for this change for a very long time,” he said. “The scientific community has made a lot of advances, and it was time to move forward.”

Hawkins also said the new guidelines were needed because they made sexually active gay and bisexual men feel singled out in the past.

“When asked to donate blood, I’ve had to tell people I’m sorry, but I can’t participate because I’m a gay man,” he said. “I’m glad we’re finally taking steps forward and getting rid of the outdated policy.”


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About the Contributors
Jamie Faux, News Writer
(she/her) Jamie Faux began as a news reporter at the Daily Utah Chronicle in the summer of 2023. She is a double major in English and finance at the University of Utah with the goal of becoming an author after graduation. Jamie grew up in Provo and enjoys outdoor sports, reading, and traveling.
Mary Allen, Design Director
(she/her) Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Mary is thrilled to be here at the University of Utah studying graphic design. She feels very lucky to get to rub shoulders with the talented people that make up the team here at the Chronicle and is learning a lot from them every day. Other than making things look cute, Mary’s passions include music, pickleball, Diet Coke, wildlife protection, and the Boston Red Sox.

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