More and more Democratic 2020 candidates are calling to end the ban on gay men donating blood.
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The policy prohibits gay and bisexual men who have had sex with other men within the last year from donating blood. Critics say this policy enforces homophobia and is increasingly unnecessary due to modern scientific advances. These advances can detect blood-borne diseases like HIV in the bloodstream within two weeks.
Seven political campaigns spoke to The Independent about their stance on ending this discriminatory ban. They believe that the one-year ban enforced by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is outdated and needs to be replaced.
‘The one-year deferral period for male blood donors who identify as gay and bisexual has nothing to do with science or medicine and everything to do with outdated stigmas against the LGBTQ community,’ a spokesperson for Beto O’Rourke’s campaign said.
‘Our blood screening policies must be based on 21st century medical evidence. Not outdated biases about which populations carry more risk of HIV transmission. These policies serve no one and will only limit access to life-saving blood donations.’
The campaigns of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney, and Marianne Williamson agreed with this sentiment.
Why it matters
William McColl, the director of health policy with the advocacy group AIDS United, says he never saw this issue get this much attention in previous election cycles. He notes that new reforms appear to be underway at the FDA, where an updated testing standard is being worked out. He believes the comments from 2020 candidates show progress is being made.
‘I’m pleased to hear that they’re talking about it. I think it shows that we’ve come a really long way in a short period of time,’ he said. ‘This discussion wasn’t happening even 10 years ago, for sure.’
The original ban prohibited gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender people, from donating blood for their entire lives. Over the next 30 years, new scientific advancements lessened this. In 2015, the requirement was reduced to just one year.
In other countries, like Canada, the restriction has previously been reduced from a year to just three months.