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Three of the nation’s largest blood centers, Vitalant, OneBlood, and the American Red Cross are launching a pilot study through a contract funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that could potentially lead to a significant change to blood donor eligibility for men who have sex with men.
The pilot study is called the ADVANCE Study, which stands for Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility.
The study is focused on evaluating alternatives to the FDA’s blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men (MSM). FDA recommends that a man who has had sex with another man be deferred from donating blood for three months following the most recent sexual contact with another man.
The purpose of the study is to determine whether a different donor deferral can be used at blood centers nationwide while maintaining the safety of the blood supply. For this to be possible, a change would need to be made to the donor history questionnaire, and this study is the first step in assessing the safety of a change.
The donor history questionnaire consists of a series of questions that all potential blood donors answer before donating. The questions are written to assess risk factors that could indicate possible infection with a transfusion transmissible infection, including HIV.
The ADVANCE study is a first step in providing data that will help the FDA determine if a donor history questionnaire based on individual risk would be as effective as time-based deferral, in reducing the risk of HIV in the blood supply.
If the scientific evidence supports the use of the different questions it could mean men who have sex with men who present to donate would be assessed based upon their own individual risk for HIV infection and not according to when their last sexual contact with another man occurred. The ADVANCE study is groundbreaking because it’s the first time a study is being conducted that could result in individual risk assessment for men who have sex with men to donate blood.
To gather the necessary data the blood centers will partner with LGBTQ+ Centers in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Orlando, New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Miami, Memphis, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. The study will enroll a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men (250 – 300 from each area) who meet the study eligibility criteria.
The study will include gay and bisexual men who are interested in donating blood, and who have had sex with at least one other man in the three months before joining in the study.
Potential participants will complete a short survey to assess if they meet the study inclusion criteria. If the potential participants are qualified, staff conducting the study will enroll the participants into the study and obtain informed consent.
Eligible participants will also need to be between the ages of 18 and 30 years, and also will need to live in one of the eight communities where the pilot study is being done.
Appointments are required to enroll in the ADVANCE study. Please click on the location near you to schedule your appointment. The study is being started in different cities over the next several months. If the link for your location is not active, the study has not yet started in your city.
If you want to find out more about the study please contact the research staff at the nearest enrollment site.
The following are a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the ADVANCE Study.
In the News
ABC News – FDA launches study that could lead to removal of restrictions on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.
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