US Representatives Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) along with Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have requested that Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting that HHS reevaluate the blood donation regulations for men who have sex with men. Currently, gay and bisexual men are banned from donating blood for life.
The four wrote in the letter that “Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic more than 30 years ago, the scientific community’s understanding of the virus has changed dramatically. We have seen vast advances in blood screening technology, blood donation policy changes in other countries allowing MSM to donate, and opposition from our nation’s blood banks who have called the current ban ‘medically and scientifically unwarranted.’ Our current policies turn away healthy, willing donors, even when we face serious blood shortages. Further, the existing lifetime ban continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes against gay and bisexual men, and fosters an atmosphere that promotes discrimination and discourages individuals from seeking HIV testing and treatment services.”
The letter was also signed by a total of 82 members of Congress from both parties.
The current ban was put into place back in the 1980′s when little was known about AIDS. The technology today has largely resulted in the ban no longer being needed. Back in 2010, the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood & Tissue Safety & Availability found the ban to be problematic.
Earlier this year, the American Medical Association issued a resolution opposing the current ban, calling it discriminatory, and noting that it is not based on sound science. The AMA supports new donation deferral policies based upon an individual’s risk levels. The American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers also support ending the policy.