RIBC will introduce a new donor screening process on Monday, October 2nd, based on Individual Donor Assessment (IDA), not sexual orientation or gender identity.

This comes at an important time as the region is currently experiencing a blood emergency with dangerously low levels of O+ and O- , B-, and platelets.

RHODE ISLAND — Rhode Island Blood Center (RIBC) announced a blood emergency following a summer of low donor turnout.  Contributing to the shortage are the recent Labor Day holiday, back-to-school activities, and a prolonged 50% decrease in youth and first-time donors.  The region’s blood supply is well below the optimal 5-7 days and while all blood types are needed, types O+, O-, B-, and platelets are critically low.  And our community is not alone, blood shortages are happening across the country, with multiple centers urgently calling for blood donations. 

Amid this blood emergency, RIBC will soon be able to welcome new donors. On Monday, October 2nd, it will implement a new donor screening process that will focus on individual donor assessment.  This comes following the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) final guidance establishing a blood donor screening process based on individual donor assessment, not sexual orientation or gender identity.  Previously, the screening process focused on gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and only allowed this group to donate blood if they hadn’t had sex with other men for three months. Interested individuals can find detailed information regarding these changes at ribc.org/ida

In preparation for this change, RIBC has completed the adoption of the donor history questionnaire, updated and validated computer systems regulated by the FDA, trained staff, and updated operational procedures.

“Rhode Island Blood Center has long advocated for scientifically-based changes to the FDA policies regarding gay and bisexual men and this is one step toward making blood donation more inclusive,” said Caitlin Grimaldi-Flick, Marketing and Communications Manager for Rhode Island Blood Center. “We look forward to welcoming these new donors to our centers and blood drives, especially following a tough summer with low donor turnout. We also recognize this is just the beginning in making blood donation more inclusive.”

“This change in blood donation guidelines at the federal level represents an important step toward a blood donation process that treats all potential donors, and specifically gay and bisexual men, with equality and respect,” said Philip Chan, MD, MS, Consultant Medical Director for the Rhode Island Department of Health, and Chief Medical Officer for Open Door Health. “Giving blood is one of the best ways for you to give back and potentially save the life of someone in your community. I encourage everyone who is newly eligible to donate to reach out to the Rhode Island Blood Center to make an appointment today!”

All U.S. blood centers are regulated by the FDA and must adhere to their donor eligibility policies. In 1983, the FDA instituted a lifetime deferral on blood donations for gay and bisexual men in order to reduce the chance of HIV in the blood supply at a time when testing was limited or non-existent. In 2015, the FDA revised this policy and moved to a 12-month deferral for men who have sex with men in response to comprehensive testing capabilities and data demonstrating safety in shortened deferral. This policy was revised again in 2020 to the current 3-month deferral.

MEDIA OPPORTUNITY – Wednesday, October 4: Rhode Island Department of Health Consultant Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer for Open Door Health Philip Chan, MD, MS will donate blood to mark the updated FDA guidelines for members of the LGBTQIA+ community at RIBC’s Providence Donor Center (405 Promenade St.) at 1:00pm

The change is based on data from the “Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility” (ADVANCE) Study, which sought to determine if different eligibility criteria could be used focusing on each donor’s individual risk behavior rather than their sexual orientation. The updated criteria reflects the scientific data gathered as part of the ADVANCE Study.

To make an appointment call 401.453.8383 or visit ribc.org.

RHODE ISLAND BLOOD CENTER (RIBC) was founded in 1979 as a nonprofit community blood center. For over 40 years, RIBC has been the primary supplier of blood and blood products to patients being cared for in hospitals throughout Rhode Island and in neighboring states. Our mission is to help save lives by ensuring a safe and plentiful blood supply to the patients and hospitals we serve. RIBC is also part of the National Marrow Donor Program and collects stem cells for transplant at its Providence location. RIBC provides therapeutic treatments for patients in local hospitals. Our state-of-the-art laboratory performs donor testing for over 400,000 donations per year. RIBC is also involved in various local and national research programs to improve all aspects of the blood supply. RIBC is a division of New York Blood Center, Inc. (a family of operating Divisions known as New York Blood Center Enterprises). For more information, visit ribc.org.

NEW YORK BLOOD CENTER ENTERPRISES/NEW YORK BLOOD CENTER was founded in 1964, New York Blood Center Enterprises (NYBCe) is one of the largest nonprofit, independent, community blood centers in the world. Along with partner organizations Blood Bank of Delmarva (BBD), Community Blood Center of Kansas City (CBC), Connecticut Blood Center (CTBC), Memorial Blood Centers (MBC), Nebraska Community Blood Bank (NCBB), and Rhode Island Blood Center (RIBC), we collect approximately 4,000 units of blood products each day and serve communities approaching 50 million people in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT), mid-Atlantic area (PA, DE, MD), Kansas City metropolitan area, Minnesota, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Southern New England. NYBCe delivers lifesaving blood products and services as well as clinical, medical, pharmaceutical, testing, and consultative services to over 600 hospitals and dozens of research organizations, academic institutions, and biomedical companies. Among other milestones, our Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute pioneered the Hepatitis B vaccine and patented a solvent detergent plasma process, innovating blood-purification technology worldwide.