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Rep. Quigley, 115 Bipartisan House Members Push FDA to End Discriminatory Blood Ban on Gay and Bisexual Men

Jun 20, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), Vice-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jared Polis (CO-02), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Diana DeGette (CO-01), and Alcee Hastings (FL-20) led a bipartisan letter signed by over 100 House colleagues calling on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert M. Califf to end the discriminatory blood donation deferral policy for men who have sex with men (MSM) once and for all. The current policy for MSM requires a 12-month deferral, or celibacy, period before being able to donate blood.

“In light of the tragic mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we write to highlight the urgent need to draw continued attention to the unsound FDA blood donation deferral policy for men who have sex with men (MSM),” wrote the members. “Given the target, nature and timing of this particular attack, the LGBT community is especially eager to contribute to the response effort. Yet, due to the MSM deferral policy, many healthy gay and bisexual men are prohibited from donating desperately needed blood. Additionally, we are concerned that the 12-month deferral policy, which suggests that the sexual relationships of MSM men and transgender women inherently pose a risk of HIV transmission, furthers a stigma that we have persistently fought to eliminate. The FDA questionnaire should reflect risk-based behaviors as opposed to sexual orientation. It is our view that this tragedy, more than any other, shines a light on the need for a permanent reversal of this policy.”

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led a similar bipartisan letter in the Senate with 22 of their colleagues.

The previous lifetime ban on MSM donating blood was put in place during the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s, but was no longer scientifically justified with current blood screening technology. In 2010, the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood & Tissue Safety & Availability (ACBTSA) found the ban to be “suboptimal” and asked for re-evaluation of this policy. In response to a letter from legislators in 2013, HHS indicated that the Department would finish deliberations on a policy change to the blood ban by the end of 2014. In December of 2015, the FDA officially changed the blood donation policy for men who have sex with men from a lifetime ban to a 12-month deferral.

A copy of the letter is available online here.