A coalition of federal lawmakers called on the US government to end its lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.
The letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was led by the first openly gay US senator – Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin – as well as fellow Senate Democrats Tom Harkin of Iowa and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Democratic members of the US House of Representatives Barbara Lee of California and Mike Quigley of Illinois.
‘If we are serious about protecting and enhancing our nation’s blood supply, we must embrace science and reject outdated stereotypes,’ the letter states.
The ban prevents men who have sex with men from donating blood and was put into place in 1983 by the Federal Drug Administration. It prohibits any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood.
Last month, an HHS committee recommended the lifetime ban be replaced with a one-year deferral period after a sexual encounter.
The lawmakers consider that change still be ‘outdated and discriminatory’ and call for a policy based on individual risk factors.
‘Both policies are discriminatory, and both approaches are unacceptable,’ the lawmakers wrote.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center praised the efforts by the lawmakers to repeal the 31-year-old lifetime ban.
‘With significant advances in HIV testing, it is scientifically and medically warranted to revise this obsolete ban,’ says Christopher Brown, the center’s director of Health and Mental Health Services.
‘Blood donors should not be accepted or rejected based on their sexual orientation, but rather, on a risk assessment of their individual behaviors,’ Brown adds.
He points out that The Williams Institute estimates that by removing the lifetime ban, the total annual blood supply in the Unites States would increase by 2-4 percent and could save the lives of more than 1.8 million people.
The letter asks HHS to respond by 22 December.