Josh Sorbe from Washington D.C, is a busy communications professional, an accomplished athlete, and a fitness instructor. He also wants to be a blood donor, but as a gay man, he is currently not eligible. Now, a new study could help change that.
The ADVANCE Study (Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility) is a pilot study sponsored by the FDA, which will determine if different eligibility criteria for gay and bisexual men can be used at blood centers nationwide. Right now, FDA policy prohibits a man who has had sex with another man from donating blood for three months following the most recent sexual contact. This study will determine if eligibility based on an individual’s risk can replace the current time-based deferral system while maintaining the safety of the blood supply.
At the Red Cross, we want to foster an inclusive environment that embraces diversity for everyone. We believe blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation and we’re committed to achieving this goal. We are working alongside the FDA, blood industry partners and LGBTQ+ community centers to conduct this study, with the help of participants like Josh.
JOSH’S EXPERIENCE AS A STUDY PARTICIPANT
Josh’s experiences growing up in a rural community have made issues of equality important to him, so when he heard about the ADVANCE Study through a friend group chat, he decided to sign up. “Ever since I was a kid, needles have been one of my biggest fears. But with the opportunity to contribute to a community cause through ADVANCE, I realized it was irrational and signed up for the study. I wanted to be part of the solution, and if I needed to give a few vials of blood, I was 100% willing and excited to do so.”
Josh’s appointment at the study site was quick and easy. “We started with a screening questionnaire where they asked various questions. Then, they took three vials of blood, bandaged me, gave me a snack and water, and sent me on my way. Super easy and fast! The whole process took maybe 30 minutes.”
“Think of the impact your blood can make in the lives of community members, families, children, and the world should this study allow us to donate blood. LGBTQ Pride is about unwavering queer acceptance, community-building, and unapologetic love. In my opinion, there’s no better way to celebrate than contributing to a cause deeply rooted in queer liberation.”
ADDITIONAL PARTICIPANTS NEEDED
More participants are needed for the study to be successful. The study has a goal to enroll a minimum total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men across eight study locations and is currently scheduled to conclude in September 2022.
WHO CAN JOIN
Individuals who meet the following criteria may be eligible to participate:
- Male (biological sex assigned at birth; this includes cisgender males and transgender females)
- Age 18 – 39 years
- Willingness to donate blood at some time in the future
- Sexual activity with a male partner at least once during the past 3 months
- Residence in one of the eight study locations, including Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orlando, Miami, New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Memphis, and Atlanta.
- No current or recent STD’s or awareness of HIV infection
ABOUT THE STUDY
It’s conducted by the American Red Cross, One Blood, Vitalant, and partner LGBTQ+ community centers and funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. After registering, participants will:
- Make two appointments at a local study site, each appointment will take approximately 30-45 minutes
- Be compensated up to $85 for their time
- Help contribute data for the FDA that could lead to changes in donor eligibility for gay and bisexual men.
To learn more and to register, visit ADVANCEStudy.org. You can also learn more about the people and partners behind the study here.