WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday relaxed rules that prevent many gay men from giving blood in an effort to tackle a severe shortage of donations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Since 2015, men who have had sex with other men in the previous 12 months have been unable to donate blood. Previously, the ban was for life.
The period has been reduced to three months, the US Food and Drug Administration announced.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges to the US blood supply," it said.
"Donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives."
The FDA said recent research proved that the rules could "be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply."
The three-month rule also applies to women who have had sex with gay or bisexual men, as well as to people who have received a tattoo or piercing, and to those who have traveled to a country where the malaria risk is high.
Nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the US due to concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses and schools during the coronavirus outbreak.
© Agence France-Presse