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Quigley, Pappas, and Lee Lead Call for Blood Donation Eligibility Reform

Feb 27, 2020
Press Release

U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), Chris Pappas (NH-01), and Barbara Lee (CA-13), members of the Congressional Equality Caucus, sent a letter with 30 of their colleagues calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reassess an outdated and discriminatory policy that prohibits gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

“The United States is currently in the midst of a nationwide blood shortage and yet the FDA continues to maintain biased, homophobic regulations that no longer have any basis in scientific reality,” said Quigley. “The FDA must revise its guidelines to end the outdated practice of discriminating against healthy, willing gay and bisexual men. I will continue this fight until the policy is inclusive and scientifically sound.”

In 2015, the FDA ‘loosened’ its long-standing lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men (MSM) to allow those who have abstained from sex for a year to give blood. However, this policy change did not go far enough, failing to take into account significant advances in the field of HIV testing or the robust scientific evidence supporting shorter deferral times. Furthermore, this outdated policy stigmatizes members of the LGBTQ community by perpetuating stereotypes that they inherently put others at risk. There are currently no restrictions placed on the donations of heterosexual men, even if they engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. 

“We should no longer allow outdated, discriminatory bans on blood donation to remain in place that stigmatizes members of the LGBTQ community,” said Pappas. “The FDA needs to urgently reexamine these guidelines and implement new policies, consistent with modern science and research, that will permit willing and healthy Americans to donate blood, regardless of sexual orientation.” 

Quigley has long led the effort to end the discriminatory blood ban upheld by the FDA. Last year, Quigley secured language in the FY2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill urging the FDA and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to evaluate new data examining risk factors for HIV infection and adjust blood donation questions if warranted. He also ensured that the FY2020 Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill included language that acknowledges the clear bias the blood donor questionnaire has towards gay men and recommends that the FDA work with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to receive the latest science on risks of STI transmission through blood donation instead of focusing on someone’s sexual orientation.

You can read the full text of the letter HERE.