Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is
among the leading Democrats asking the FDA to end its ban on gay
After intense lobbying from advocacy
groups and lawmakers – including 2 letters to FDA Commissioner
Margaret Hamburg and an op-ed written by Kerry – the Food &
Drug Administration (FDA) agreed in March to reexamine its policy.
The FDA currently imposes a lifetime
ban on men who have had a sexual relationship with another man since
1977 from donating blood. But the agency only excludes people who
have engaged in heterosexual sexual activity with a person know to
have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, for one year.
Gay rights groups say the policy
creates an unfair double standard and that it stigmatizes gay men.
A Health and Human Services advisory
committee reviewing the policy will hear testimony today and Friday
on the blood ban, but the FDA will have the final say.
“It's a very positive step that HHS
is meeting this week to reconsider the lifetime ban on gay Americans
donating blood,” Senator Kerry said in a statement. “The medical
and scientific communities have been crystal clear that there is no
longer any scientific evidence to warrant his policy.”
On Wednesday, Kerry, along with 42
Democrats, wrote to the advisory committee considering the policy.
In the letter, the lawmakers argue that
the ban specifically singles out gay men and is scientifically
“For instance, there is no prescribed
consideration of safer sex practices, individuals who routinely
practice unsafe heterosexual sex face no deferral period at all,
while monogamous and married homosexual partners who practice safe
sex are banned for life.”
“Even individuals who have paid
prostitutes for heterosexual sex face a deferral period of one year
while gay men face a lifetime ban,” the lawmakers wrote. “These
do not strike us as scientifically sound conclusions.”
Openly gay representatives Barney Frank
of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jared Polis of
Colorado are among the co-signers. Also on board are representatives
Mike Quigley of Illinois and Jerrold Nadler of New York, strong
supporters of gay rights.
Technological improvements in screening
the nation's blood make the policy unnecessary, the lawmakers argue.
“Science, technology and education
have advanced since the inception of this policy, and it's time that
it, too, evolved,” Quigley said.
“Our society and its laws must move
beyond the offensive and incorrect stereotype that automatically
links gay men to risky sexual practices and, therefore, to HIV/AIDS,”
Nadler said. “If we are serious about addressing the national
blood shortage, then we must repeal the FDA's ban on gay blood donors
Allowing gay men to donate blood is
opposed by hemophilia patient groups. In the late 1970s and early
1980s about 10,000 hemophiliacs were infected with HIV before the
agency implemented the policy.
version corrects the statement that Jared Polis did not join
lawmakers in a June letter to the HHS; his name was omitted due to a