Lawmakers: Reform 'Indefensible' Blood Donation Policy

Posted 11 June 2012 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

A group of 62 US lawmakers sent US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a letter on 11 June expressing their collective support for a draft policy announced in March 2012 that would examine the feasibility of relaxing rules currently prohibiting gay men from donating blood or plasma.

In DHHS's Request for Information on Design of a Pilot Operational Study to Assess Alternative Blood Donor Deferral Criteria for Men Who have Had Sex With Other Men (MSM), the agency said it would re-examine a long-time ban on MSM donations through the use of a pilot operational study.

The ban on MSM donations has been in place since 1977, and was tentatively reaffirmed by a DHHS Committee in 2010 despite being called "suboptimal."

In their letter to Sebelius, the legislators, led by Sen. John Kerrey (D-MA) and John Quigley (D-IL), said the policy was at best inconsistent and at worst discriminatory.

"Healthy gay and bisexual men continue to be banned for life, while the FDA allows a man who has had sex with an HIV-positive woman to give blood after waiting only one year," wrote the legislators. "This double standard is inconsistent and indefensible."

"We believe that any change in blood donor deferral policy must be guided by the science of ensuring the highest level of safety for our blood supply," explained the legislators. "We remain concerned that a blanket deferral of MSM for any length of time both perpetuates the unwarranted discrimination against the bisexual and gay community and prevents healthy men from donating blood without a definitive finding of added benefit to the safety of the blood supply."

The legislators further said they were "pleased" by the efforts of DHHS in pursuing its pilot study, and used them "to continue to be vigilant" against discrimination against the MSM community.

Read more:

Letter to Kathleen Sebelius

Regulatory Focus - DHHS Reevaluating Blood Donation Rules

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