Rep. Pascrell Joins Letter to FDA Calling for End to Gay Blood Ban
WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) joined more than a hundred lawmakers in a letter calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reexamine the 12-month deferral policy for blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM), and to instead implement a risk-based, scientifically-sound screening policy.
"It is past time for the FDA to again reconsider their MSM blood donation deferral policy. Blood quality fluctuates based on the risk-based behaviors of the donors, if we believe the experts," said Rep. Pascrell, "and those risky actions are not confined to MSM. Just last year the FDA acknowledged the lifetime ban was misguided, but unfortunately their policy compromise still falls short. The events of Orlando and the need for blood donors has put a spotlight on this outdated thinking."
In 1983, the FDA, which sets policy on blood donation, established a lifetime ban for MSM on donating blood. Last year, the FDA changed its policy, ending the lifetime ban, but still prohibits MSM from donating blood if they have had sex with another man in the previous 12 months, which essentially still prohibits gay men from donating blood. The risk of being exposed to HIV hinge on factors that make sex risky for everyone: sex with multiple partners, non-awareness of HIV status, and lack of protection. To place the same restrictions on monogamous gay couples as those placed on straight men who have unprotected sex with multiple partners, or intravenous drug users, is simply inexcusable policy.
The letter comes on the heels of the atrocities in Orlando, the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, where Americans quickly lined up to donate blood for the wounded victims.
"We are witness to that compassion as Floridians have quickly lined up to donate blood. Given the target, nature and timing of this particular attack, the LGBT community is especially eager to contribute to the response effort," the lawmakers wrote. "Yet, due to the MSM deferral policy, many healthy gay and bisexual men are prohibited from donating desperately needed blood."
The entire letter can be found here.