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Can LGBTQ+ People Be Kidney Donors?

Jonathan Calixto

Many members of the LGBTQ+ community may think they are unable to become living kidney donors. This is a common misconception that is based on outdated information.

In fact, anyone of any gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation is welcome to register to become a living donor.

The idea that LGBTQ+ people cannot become donors may be rooted in the fact that for many years, gay men were not allowed to donate blood or organs because of the fear of HIV and AIDS.

In 1983, the FDA issued a lifetime blood-donation ban on sexually active gay men. After years of calls to change the policy, the ban was eliminated in 2015. As of May 2023, the guidelines focus on behavior rather than orientation. Currently, any individual, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, who has had new or multiple sexual partners in the last three months, and also had anal sex in that timeframe, will be asked to wait three months to donate blood from the last such contact.

There are no such limitations for living organ donors. Anyone, regardless of gender or orientation, can register to become a living donor. In fact, while individuals who have never tested positive for HIV are still not allowed to donate blood, thanks to the 2013 HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE) Act, people who are HIV+ can now donate an organ to others who are HIV+. The act covers both living and deceased donation.

The year 2019 marked the first time an HIV+ gay man became a living kidney donor, donating his kidney to an anonymous HIV+ recipient. A study followed the first three HIV+ living kidney donors and found they all had good outcomes at two- and four-year post-donation follow-ups.

Now that HIV status is no longer a barrier to living donation, it can be said that anyone can register to be an organ donor regardless of gender identity or expression, choice of sexual partner, or HIV status. For those with HIV who are interested in becoming a donor, see this list of transplant centers that participate in HOPE.

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