A Health & Human Services Committee
has voted to keep a ban on gay men from donating blood.
Committee members ignored lawmakers'
calls to end the ban, voting 9-to-6 late Friday to keep the policy in
place, gay glossy The
Advocate reported. The vote came after two days of
hearings on the issue.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, a
Democrat, led the fight to reverse the ban.
“This lingering policy is responsible
for turning away thousands of healthy donors from blood clinics
across the country, not because they have engaged in highly risky
behavior, but because they are gay,” Kerry said in testimony before
“This is blood that could save
lives,” he added.
The Food & Drug Administration
(FDA) will have final say on the ruling, but it is likely to follow
the panel's advice.
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.
Rea Carey, executive director of the
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, called the recommendation
“outrageous, irresponsible and archaic.”
Carey said the decision “put lives at
Hemophilia patient groups oppose gay
men donating blood. In the late 1970s and early 1980s about 10,000
hemophiliacs were infected with HIV before the FDA implemented the
The American Red Cross, America's Blood
Centers and the AABB are among the organizations that say the ban is
outdated and should be abolished.
On Wednesday, 43
lawmakers led by Senator Kerry signed onto a letter urging the panel
to reverse course on the policy.