Murphy Pushes FDA to End Discriminatory Blood Ban on Gay and Bisexual Men
This was put in place during the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s, but was no longer scientifically justified with current blood screening technology.
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) joined U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), Vice-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, and other members of Congress in calling on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert M. Califf to end the medically unnecessary ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood once and for all. (Please click here to view a copy of the letter).
“While the sight of thousands of my fellow Floridians lining up for hours to donate blood following this horrifying attack moves us beyond words, it is unconscionable that gay men are prohibited from doing so due to a bigoted federal regulation,” said Rep. Murphy. “It is beyond time for the FDA to lift this discriminatory ban. It should not be harder for a gay man to donate blood to his friends in the hospital than it is for a terrorist to buy the guns that put them there.”
“During times of tragedy, the American people are quick to demonstrate their resiliency and mobilize in solidarity with victims and the affected community. We witnessed that compassion as Floridians quickly lined up to donate blood,” said Rep. Quigley. “Given the target, nature and timing of this tragic attack, the LGBT community is especially eager to contribute to the response effort. Yet, due to the FDA’s deferral policy for gay and bisexual men, many healthy potential blood donors are prohibited from donating. The cruel irony of this deferral policy is personified by this particular terrorist attack, where the victims were targeted for being members of the LGBT community and the gay and bisexual men who wanted to donate blood for those in need were banned from doing so. So today, I am proud to stand alongside my colleagues, on World Blood Donor Day, in opposition to the FDA’s current misguided blood donation policy, and call on Commissioner Califf to change the policy to be based on the risk of transfusion-transmissible infections, and not on sexual orientation.”
“The policy in place today continues to prevent men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply,” said David Stacy, Government Affairs Director for Human Rights Campaign (HRC). “In light of current scientific research and updated blood screening technology, the current policy falls short and continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men. When tragic events like the attack in Orlando occur, it underscores the harms of this policy.”
“The need for blood is constant. In light of the tragic massacre in Orlando, we are reminded of that need. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation where the victims directly affected by this tragedy and in need of lifesaving blood are the very people banned from donating it. The 12-month deferral is the result of an overabundance of government bureaucracy and caution, not science,” said the National Gay Blood Drive. “There are other high-risk groups who are not subject to this deferral or anything similar. The National Gay Blood Drive would like to see a more specific set of questions regarding sexual behavior, as well as a shorter deferral period that reflects current testing, equally applied to anyone posing a risk to the nation’s blood supply.”
The previous lifetime ban on MSM donating blood was put in place during the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s, but was no longer scientifically justified with current blood screening technology. In 2010, the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood & Tissue Safety & Availability (ACBTSA) found the ban to be suboptimal and asked for re-evaluation of this policy. In response to a letter from legislators in 2013, HHS indicated that the Department would finish deliberations on a policy change to the blood ban by the end of 2014. In December of 2015, the FDA officially changed the blood donation policy for men who have sex with men from a lifetime ban to a 12-month deferral.