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LA County Supervisors Want to End Discrimination Against Gay Men in Blood Donations

February 8, 2022

 

Los Angeles, CA – Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is calling on the FDA to reverse its discriminatory blood donor policy and allow gay and bisexual men to give blood. 

Hahn’s motion, co-authored with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, directs a 5-signature letter to be sent to acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock urging the reversal of restrictions that prevent sexually active gay and bisexual men from becoming blood donors. 

“These outdated restrictions aren’t just discriminatory – they’re actively endangering the lives of people in need of blood,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “As we face the worst blood shortage we’ve seen in a decade, we have an easy way to increase our blood supply while putting an end to a homophobic policy that targets people for who they are and who they love.” 

“It is really counter-productive, senseless and discriminatory to prevent healthy and willing gay men from donating blood when we most need it,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.  “According to UCLA’s Williams Institute, changing this policy could result in the donation of more than 600,000 additional pints of blood. Let’s put an end to homophobia and help replenish our national blood supply!” 

The current blood donor policy requires gay or bisexual men to abstain from sex for a minimum of three months before they can donate blood. The roots of the discriminatory policy date back to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s, in an era when HIV was poorly understood by scientists and doctors. In 1985, the FDA established a lifetime ban on donations by men who have sex with men. In 2015, the lifetime ban was changed to include anyone who had sex with men in the last 12 months. In April 2020, 12 months was reduced to 3 months.

For years, the American Medical Association has been calling on the FDA to remove this discriminatory ban and treat all potential blood donors equally. Today, every unit of blood is rigorously tested to detect any trace of HIV, syphilis, hepatitis, West Nile virus or other blood-borne diseases.

There is gaining momentum to end this discriminatory blood donor policy during the current national blood shortage crisis. Members of the House Oversight Committee wrote a letter on January 13 to the FDA asking for “immediate action.” On January 18, the Biden administration voiced commitment to ensuring that the blood donor policy “is based on science, not fiction or stigma.” The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, added to calls for change saying the current policy is “outdated” and “does not reflect the state of the science.”

 

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