BACKGROUND: Men who have had sex with men (MSM) since 1977 are permanently deferred from donating blood. Excluding only men who engaged in male-to-male sex within either the prior 12 months or 5 years has been proposed. Little is known about infectious disease risks of MSM who donate blood. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Weighted analyses of data from an anonymous mail survey of blood donors were conducted to examine the characteristics of men reporting male-to-male sex during specified time periods. RESULTS: Of the 25,168 male respondents, 569 (2.4%) reported male-to-male sex, 280 (1.2%) since 1977. Compared to donors who did not report male-to-male sex, the prevalence of reactive screening test results was higher among donors who reported the practice within the past 5 years (< or =12 months odds ratio [OR] 5.3, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.6-10.4; >12 months to 5 years, OR 7.1, 95% CI 1.2-41.7); however, no significant difference was found for donors who last practiced male-to-male sex more than 5 years ago (>5 years-after 1977, OR 1.4, 95% CI 0.7-2.6; 1977 or earlier, OR 1.6, 95% CI 0.7-3.7). The prevalence of unreported deferrable risks (UDRs) other than male-to-male sex was significantly higher for all donors who reported male-to-male sex with ORs ranging from 3.1 to 18.9 (p < or = 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: No evidence was found to support changing current policy to permit donations from men who practiced male-to-male sex within the past 5 years. For donors with a more remote history of male-to-male sex, the findings were equivocal. A better understanding of the association between male-to-male sex and other UDRs appears needed.