Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and a group of 86 other signatories from Congress sent a letter on Thursday to call for an end to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s ban on blood donors who are “men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977,” a policy the FDA has had in place since the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1992.
“Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic more than 30 years ago, the scientific community’s understanding of the virus has changed dramatically. We have seen vast advances in blood screening technology, blood donation policy changes in other countries allowing MSM to donate, and opposition from our nation’s blood banks who have called the current ban ‘medically and scientifically unwarranted,’” the letter said. “Our current policies turn away healthy, willing donors even when we face serious blood shortages. Further, the existing lifetime ban continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes about gay and bisexual men, and fosters an atmosphere that promotes discrimination and discourages individuals from from seeking HIV testing and treatment services.”
Other signatories included Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), all openly gay or lesbian members of Congress.
The American Medical Association, widely regarded as the most mainstream medical organization in the country, recently joined the chorus of those who oppose the FDA’s ban on gay and bisexual blood donors.
In a statement on her website, Warren said, “For me, this has been a basic issue of fairness and of science – blood donation policies should be grounded in science, not ugly and inaccurate stereotypes. When a Massachusetts man told me he wanted to donate blood during the bombings but couldn’t because of his sexual orientation, I dug deeper into this discriminatory ban and I didn’t like what I found. Current policies are contrary to science.”
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA, has authorized three studies to examine how the current policy could be changed, all scheduled to be completed between August 2013 to October 2014. Yet, as the statement on Warren’s website says, “HHS leadership has yet to release information about the design of the proposed study, how study information will be used to shape policy changes, or a timeline for changing this discriminatory policy.”
[Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduces the Students Loan Fairness Act (screenshot)]
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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