State attorneys general urge FDA to transition to gender neutral screening for blood donations

State attorneys general urge FDA to transition to gender neutral screening for blood donations
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Nearly two dozen state attorneys general wrote to Assistant Health Secretary Brett Giroir on Wednesday requesting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) further loosen its blood donation restrictions for the country's LGBTQ population.

The request comes as the U.S. struggles to maintain an adequate blood supply during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As Americans stay home to stop the spread of coronavirus, the nation is facing a shortage of blood donations, which provide critical medical support to hospitals and their patients,” California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraBiden administration releases B in COVID-19 relief for providers White House plan backs Medicare drug price negotiation Nursing homes warn vaccine mandate could lead to staff shortages MORE (D) said in a statement.
 
Becerra, who spearheaded the letter, added: “During this pandemic, it is important to continue to evaluate and modernize blood donation guidance to be inclusive of LGBTQ Americans. A risk-based model not only protects the health and safety of our communities — it’s the right thing to do.”
 
The FDA recently rolled back its restrictions on men who have sex with men. The rollback reduced the waiting period needed to give blood between sexual encounters for that group from 12 months to three months. However, in the letter, the attorneys general said that the revised guidelines don't go far enough.
 
"While this reform takes a step toward increasing blood donations made by healthy bisexual and gay men in a time when the nation’s supply of blood and blood products is at risk of collapse due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it does not go far enough," the group wrote. "The discriminatory restrictions against blood donations by healthy gay and bisexual Americans have persisted for far too long; the steps you have taken acknowledge current rules are informed more strongly by bias than science."
 
The letter cited a study from the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute that says lifting the deferral period altogether would create "over 2 million additional each [sic] eligible blood donors, including nearly 175,000 likely blood donors, and would produce nearly 300,000 pints of additional donated blood annually."
 
It also noted that during the pandemic, more than 4,000 blood drives around the country have been canceled, which has led to over 100,000 fewer blood donations. As of April 9, the Red Cross, which supplements roughly 40 percent of the U.S.'s blood and blood components, had less than a five-day blood supply on hand.
 
The FDA, the attorneys general asserted, should observe a person's "risk behavior" and not sex when it comes to determining whether they can give blood.
 
Continuing, the group added: "A revised policy should identify a date certain by which the FDA will replace a time-based deferral with a risk-based framework and identify any research or data needed to achieve this result. Risk-based assessments should apply regardless of sex."