Congress members push on FDA’s anti-LGBTQ tissue donation policy

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

Members of Congress, including Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), are calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to end a discriminatory tissue donation policy.

Current FDA policy recommends men who have had sex with men (MSM) in the preceding 5 years as potential tissue donors for corneas, heart valves, skin, and musculoskeletal and vascular tissue. It has not been updated since 1994.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, the members of Congress wrote:

“The FDA’s restrictions on MSM tissue donation date back to 1994 Public Health Service guidance stating that any man who has ‘had sex with another man in the preceding five years’ should be disqualified from tissue donation. This policy originated from the discriminatory notion that gay and bisexual men, by virtue of their sexuality, have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Unfortunately, the FDA continues to recommend that establishments making donor eligibility determinations disqualify men who have sex with another man in the preceding five years as potential donors of human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products, based on agency guidance issued in 2007, despite current science and the serious need for tissue donations.”

The group of members from the Senate and House requested a written update on the FDA’s progress in reassessing its policy. They also requested an estimate of when recommendations for policy changes would be announced publicly and when these changes would take effect.

“The discriminatory practice of focusing narrowly on men who have sex with men in determining who is allowed to donate certain tissues does not reflect current science, limits access to needed tissues, and continues to unfairly stigmatize one segment of society,” said David Stacy, government affairs director of the Human Rights Campaign. “The FDA instead should focus its considerations for tissue donation deferrals on risky behavior by any potential donor, regardless of one’s sexual orientation. This would both advance equal rights and help maximize safe access to the nation’s supply of organ tissue.”

Other Illinois politicians signing the letter were U.S. Reps. Marie Newman (D-La Grange) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

The full letter can be read here.