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test tubes holding sperm samples in a sperm bank

After years of public criticism, the Food and Drug Administration in 2020 relaxed its rules regarding blood donation by men who have sex with men. Now the agency is being asked to consider revising its policy again—this time to facilitate sperm donations by these men.

The FDA requires sperm banks to test all donors for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and other pathogens and to quarantine vials for at least six months so that the donors can be retested. In addition to establishing these precautions, the agency has long prohibited donations from men who acknowledge having had a male sex partner within the previous five years.

“The FDA believes that overlapping safeguards in place for anonymous semen donations adequately and appropriately reduce the risk of transmission of communicable diseases,” an agency spokeswoman said.

Professional and advocacy groups are seeking changes to the agency’s policies.

The American Association of Tissue Banks has asked the FDA to apply its updated rule for blood donation to all types of tissue, a term that encompasses corneas and skin as well as sperm. Blood... see more