SOUTH FLORIDA GAY NEWS
Members of Congress Urge FDA To Lift Gay Blood Ban
By John McDonald
A coalition is building to put pressure on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to lift its ban on sexually active men donating blood.
In a letter, obtained by SFGN and addressed to FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, 116 current members of the U.S. Congress express their collective disappointment with current FDA deferral policy on blood donation for men who have sex with men (MSM).
“In practice, the current FDA deferral policy effectively leaves the majority of MSM ineligible to donate blood, as the 12-month celibacy requirement is unrealistic for most healthy gay and bisexual men to meet,” the letter reads.
Dated June 20, the letter is signed by 10 members of Florida’s delegation: Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston), Alcee Hastings (D-Miramar), Lois Frankel (D-West Palm Beach), Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton), Frederica Wilson (D-Miami Gardens), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami), Patrick E. Murphy (D-Jupiter), Kathy Castor (D-Tampa), Carlos Curbelo (R-Kendall) and Alan Grayson (D-Orlando).
“We are concerned that the 12-month deferral policy, which suggests that the sexual relationships of MSM men and transgender women inherently pose a risk of HIV transmission, furthers a stigma that we have persistently fought to eliminate,” the letter states.
The ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood has long been a bone of contention for progressive activists. Enacted in 1983 during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the ban, scientists insist, no longer makes sense. Last year, the FDA updated its policy to allow MSM men and transgender women to donate blood following one year of celibacy.
In their letter to Commissioner Califf, members of Congress called the deferral policy “unsound.”
“The FDA questionnaire should reflect risk-based behaviors as opposed to sexual orientation,” the letter states.
The blood ban issue came to light following the atrocities at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando where 49 people were killed and another 53 wounded in what is being called the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. With blood in demand, many healthy gay and bisexual men felt helpless to come to the aid of their community.
“It is beyond time to lift this discriminatory ban,” said Murphy.
Added Grayson, “After a tragedy, giving blood is a form of showing solidarity, even citizenship.”