Administration

White House: Blood donation restrictions ‘painful’ amid mass shortage

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The White House on Wednesday called the bans on blood donations from gay and bisexual men “painful” amid the worst blood shortage in a decade in the U.S. 

The decades-old guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says to “defer for 3 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 3 months.” 

“The legacy of bans on blood donation continues to be painful, especially for LGBTQI+ communities,” a White House official told ABC News in a statement. 

The official said that President Biden wants to ensure the policy is based on science and that the administration supports the Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility (Advance) study, which is focused on alternatives to the blood donor deferral policy for gay and bisexual men. 

“The President is committed to ensuring that this policy is based on science, not fiction or stigma. While there are no new decisions to announce at the moment, the FDA is currently supporting the ‘ADVANCE’ study, a scientific study to develop relevant scientific evidence and inform any potential policy changes,” the official said.

The American Red Cross has called the shortage a national blood crisis. There has been a 10 percent blood donation decline since March 2020, which the group attributes to a drop in college and high school blood drives due to the pandemic and other blood drive cancellations due to illness, weather issues or staffing limitations. 

The FDA guidance that defers gay and bisexual donors was put in place in 1983 due to the understanding of risk factors for AIDS, according to the agency.

The Red Cross, on its website, says all U.S. blood collection organizations must follow the FDA guidance but said they believe “blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked last week if Biden thinks it’s time to drop the blood donation ban but said she had not discussed it with the president. 

“I have seen those reports. I have not talked to our health team or the president about that. Let me check with him on that and our health team as well,” she told reporters, referring to the Red Cross’s emergency call for blood donations.

Tags AIDS Blood donation blood shortage Donation rules HIV Jen Psaki Joe Biden Red Cross

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