Push to end LGBTQ discrimination in blood donation starts in Congress

The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Image by MotionStudios from Pixabay)

Democratic U.S. representatives have voiced their support to end discrimination against LGBTQ for blood donation.

U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), Val B. Demings (D-Fla.), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Acting Commissioner Dr. Janey Woodcock. Writing in advance of the 5th anniversary of the Pulse Shooting, the members stated strong support of the Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility (ADVANCE) Study.

The representatives wrote the letter in advance of the fifth anniversary of the Pulse shooting this past weekend.

“When tragedy strikes, all Americans should have the option to donate blood, regardless of sexual orientation,” said Quigley. “This move by the FDA, while long overdue, is a step in the right direction. It’s a step towards fairness and equality for all who seek to give back when help is needed. This decision not only expands rights for gay and bisexual men, but will help mitigate any concern of blood shortages in the face of a local or national disaster.”

Current FDA policy bans blood donors who are men who have had sex with other men within the last three months. In 1983 when the policy was put in place, it was in the form of a lifetime ban on gay men from donating. This was changed to a year-long deferral in 2015, and three months in 2020.

Last year, Quigley and Val Demings introduced the Science in Blood Donation Act of 2020, legislation to require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise its Guidance on Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission (HIV) by Blood and Blood Products based on an assessment of current testing accuracy and individual risk-based analysis, rather than categorization. It would also require the FDA to revise the donor questionnaire based on an individual risk assessment of sexual behaviors upon which all donors are evaluated equally, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.