Senate Dems to FDA: Finish lifting gay blood donor ban

Senate Dems to FDA: Finish lifting gay blood donor ban
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Senate Democrats are urging the Obama administration to complete the rollback on the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

In a letter Tuesday, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low MORE (D-Mass.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden campaign adds staff in three battleground states Clinton, Buttigieg among Democrats set to hold virtual events for Biden Warren top choice for VP for some Black progressives MORE (D-Wisc.) and 81 of their congressional colleagues asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lift the ban in the blood donation policy and replace it with a one-year deferral.

The rules FDA has proposed would allow men to donate blood if they’ve abstained from sexual activity with another man for the past 12 months. The same 12-month deferral would apply to women who have sex with men who have sex with other men. 

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The ban was originally enacted during the national AIDS epidemic in 1983 and last updated in 1992. Since then, mounds of scientific evidence has shown that blood donations from gay men pose no greater risk of spreading AIDS than the general public if properly screened.

Lawmakers want FDA’s proposed changes to be a first-step toward implementing a risk-based blood donation policy for gay and bisexual men. In the letter they said they want a policy that secure the nation’s blood supply in a non-discriminatory, scientifically sound manner. 

"Neither our current blood donation policy, nor the proposed one year deferral for MSM, allows the many healthy gay and bisexual men across America to donate blood,” they wrote. “This serves to perpetuate the stereotype that all men who have sex with men pose a risk to the health of others.”

The lawmakers said low-risk gay and bisexual men should not be exclusively and categorically excluded because of outdated stereotypes.

Because it takes approximately a week to detect Hepatitis C in a newly infected individual, three to four weeks to detect Hepatitis B and seven to 10 days to detect HIV, the senators said a fully science-based policy would deter all who engage in a behavior that puts an individual at risk for these infections from donating for a certain period of time.