Senators: Lift Ban on Gays Donating Blood
March 5, 2010
The Food and Drug Administration should drop its lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with men, 18 US senators said Thursday in a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. The policy, instituted in 1983 in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, disallows blood donations by any man who has sex with another man at any time since 1977.
"Not a single piece of scientific evidence supports the ban," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who signed the letter with 16 other Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The senators noted that in March 2006, the American Red Cross, America's Blood Centers, and the American Association of Blood Banks told an FDA-sponsored workshop that the policy is "medically and scientifically unwarranted." Thanks to the use of two highly accurate tests, the risk of HIV-infected blood entering the system is virtually zero, the lawmakers said.
The letter also noted the irony that even as blood remains in short supply in America's hospitals and emergency departments, "healthy blood donors are turned away every day due to an antiquated policy, and our blood supply is not necessarily any safer for it."
In a response statement, FDA said that while it "appreciates concerns about perceived discrimination, our decision to maintain the deferral policy is based on current science and data and does not give weight to a donor's sexual orientation." Though it acknowledged that some groups favor lifting the ban, FDA said that some others, "such as those representing the hemophilia community, support continuation of the current policy."
For information on FDA's policy, visit www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/BloodBloodProducts/QuestionsaboutBlood/ucm108186.htm.
03.04.2010; Jim Abrams
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.