A group of senators led by out Senator
Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is calling on the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) to lift restrictions on gay and bisexual men who
wish to donate blood.
“For the first time, the nation’s
leading blood donation organizations, including the Red Cross, have
declared a national blood supply crisis due to the continued impact
of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote in their letter. “We
urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to quickly act on the
best available science and update its outdated and discriminatory
blood donor deferral policies for men who have sex with men (MSM), a
long overdue step that would dramatically increase the eligible donor
The FDA adopted a lifetime ban on gay
men donating blood in 1983 in response to the AIDS crisis. In 2015,
the agency relaxed the ban to allow for donations from gay men who
have abstained from sexual contact for 12 months. In 2020, the FDA
shortened the deferral period to 3 months to address the need for
blood during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter is addressed to acting FDA
Commissioner Janet Woodcock and Secretary of Health and Human
Services (HSS) Xavier Bacerra.
lifts restrictions for gay, bisexual men donating blood.)
The letter comes just days after the
Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBTQ rights
advocate, offered a similar appeal to the FDA.
“We are facing a national blood
shortage. This is a crisis that can in part be addressed by
modernizing the Food and Drug Administration’s discriminatory
policy that bans men who have sex with men from donating blood ”
Joni Madison, Interim President of the Human Rights Campaign, said in
a statement. “The current policy is outdated, does not reflect the
state of the science, and continues to unfairly stigmatize one
segment of society.”
The senators also characterized the ban
“Any policy that continues to
categorically single out the LGBTQ+ community is discriminatory and
wrote. “Given advances in blood screening and safety
technology, a time-based policy for gay and bisexual men is not
scientifically sound, continues to effectively exclude an entire
group of people, and does not meet the urgent demands of the moment.
And further, with increased uptake of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis
(PrEP), which significantly reduces the likelihood that an
HIV-negative individual will acquire HIV, many more gay and bisexual
men are aware of their HIV status and are taking steps to eliminate
their personal risk. Instead of the current categorical deferral
guidelines, we must adopt evidence-based policies focused on
assessment of an individual’s risk, not inaccurate and antiquated
In declaring its first-ever national
blood shortage on Tuesday, the Red Cross said that there has been a
10 percent drop in the number of blood donors in the United States.
The letter was signed by 20 Democrats
and 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats.