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Democrats introduce legislation to revise FDA requirements for LGBT blood donors

Democrats introduce legislation to revise FDA requirements for LGBT blood donors
© Greg Nash

Reps. Val Demmings (D-Fla.) and Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyWomack to replace Graves on Financial Services subcommittee Preventing next pandemic requires new bill's global solutions Democrats introduce legislation to revise FDA requirements for LGBT blood donors MORE (D-Ill.) introduced legislation Friday that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise restrictions on LGBT people, specifically gay men, that prohibit them from donating blood. 

The legislation, named the Science in Blood Donation Act of 2020, would mandate the FDA revise its guidance on reducing the risk of HIV transmission by blood and blood products based on testing accuracy and an "individual risk-based analysis" instead of based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a press release

Previously, the guidance recommended that men who had sex with men defer a year before giving blood.

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But in March, blood donations from the LGBT community were brought to the forefront due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, there was a shortage in blood donations due to social distancing measures and shelter in place orders. At the time, the FDA reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused "unprecedented challenges" to the national blood supply.

Therefore, a revised guidance was published in early April recommending a three-month deferral for gay men to donate blood. The April guidelines were to remain throughout the pandemic.  

Demmings, in the announcement said that a blood donation could be "the difference between life and death," noting that the current policy is based on "fear, stigma, and prejudice, not science."  

"Expanding the donor pool by hundreds of thousands of healthy Americans would save lives every day in emergency rooms and hospitals around the country," she said. 

Quigley, who said he was proud to take the lead on the issue, said that though Congress had made significant headway to allow men who have sex with men to give blood, it still was not enough. 

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"Over the course of many years, we have made significant progress in rolling back an indefinite ban on blood donations from MSM, to a 12 month deferral to the current 3 month deferral. This is still not enough. Our work will not be complete until FDA approves a non-discriminatory, science-based policy that properly addresses individual risk assessment, as we’ve seen countries across the world adopt," Quigley said. 

During the 1980s, gay men were the first known demographic to experience an outbreak of AIDS — a condition caused by HIV. The AIDS epidemic that followed prompted a ban of gay men from giving blood.

The news comes as prominent TV show host Andy Cohen, a gay man, was unable to give plasma during the beginning of the pandemic. At the time, Cohen said the FDA's policy on HIV prevention through blood or blood products was "discriminatory," and that he was HIV negative.