United States senators and LGBTQ+ advocates are calling on the FDA to take away restrictions that add obstacles for blood donations from males who’ve intercourse with males, because the American Pink Cross offers with a blood scarcity it referred to as the worst in additional than a decade.
Since 1985, the FDA has refused to just accept blood donations from males who’ve intercourse with males, a choice born from fears throughout the AIDS disaster. The primary restriction positioned a lifetime donation ban on any man who had intercourse with a person after 1977. In 2015, the FDA modified the restriction to permit homosexual and bisexual males to donate blood in the event that they have been abstinent for a yr.
With an inflow of hospital sufferers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA in 2020 modified the restriction to three months of abstinence.
In January, the American Pink Cross declared the worst blood scarcity in over a decade, noting that 10% fewer individuals have been donating blood because the begin of the pandemic. In the meantime, hospitals have been flooded with sufferers; the Pink Cross mentioned it may present solely 75% of the blood requested by some hospitals.
Twenty-two senators imagine a partial resolution is eradicating the blood donation restrictions on homosexual and bisexual males completely and despatched a letter to the FDA on Jan. 13 asking it to take away the abstinence restriction.
“Proper now, the USA is going through a nationwide blood provide disaster, and I’m as soon as once more urging the FDA to observe essentially the most up-to-date scientific proof and consensus among the many medical group that doesn’t help their pointless restrictions on blood donations,” mentioned Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI., the primary brazenly lesbian member of the Senate.
She led the group of senators who despatched a letter to the FDA in mid-January. Baldwin has constantly referred to as on the FDA to finish the coverage since being elected to the Senate in 2012.
Within the letter, the senators famous that “all around the world, different international locations have led on this challenge by scrapping their discriminatory blood donation insurance policies. In October of final yr, Israel eliminated all restrictions on MSM [men who have sex with men] blood donation. And simply final month, Canada’s blood regulatory company proposed eradicating all screening questions targeted on gender and sexuality.”
Baldwin has not obtained a proper response from the FDA, a spokesperson from her workplace mentioned.
American Medical Affiliation President Gerald E. Harmon, MD, mentioned in a press release that “it’s time for the Meals and Drug Administration to do one thing the AMA and others have urged for years: take away its discriminatory ban that stops many homosexual and bisexual males from turning into blood donors.”
Whereas permitting homosexual and bisexual males to donate blood with no time deferral wouldn’t clear up the blood scarcity disaster straight away, LGBTQ+ advocates say it could, at a minimal, improve the quantity of blood accessible.
The FDA is sponsoring a examine by the Pink Cross, Vitalant, and OneBlood, three of the most important blood donation facilities in America, to find out “if a donor questionnaire primarily based on particular person threat evaluation could be as efficient as time-based deferrals in lowering the danger of HIV,” an FDA spokesperson mentioned.
The examine is happening in eight communities across the nation, together with Washington, DC.
In response to Christian Morris, a recruiter at Washington’s Whitman-Walker Well being Heart, well being facilities and recruiters are struggling to collect sufficient individuals to participate within the examine as a result of there are fewer public occasions at which they’ll recruit in addition to fewer individuals out in public typically.
Morris mentioned the examine was imagined to be accomplished by summer season, however these concerned “have solely enrolled about half as many individuals as the overall goal objective throughout the USA.”
The FDA doesn’t have a selected date by which the examine might be accomplished, the spokesperson mentioned.
“The FDA has sought public enter to gather insights on how we’d transfer to and take a look at various deferral methods, corresponding to particular person threat evaluation,” the spokesperson mentioned.
Developments in science have pushed adjustments to the FDA coverage, however Morris acknowledged that the fears that drove the FDA to place the lifetime ban in place in 1985 might nonetheless exist.
“The examine is attempting to develop a screening device that could possibly be mandated throughout all people who wish to donate blood, that will get in the direction of extra particular threat components for the transmission of HIV and that could possibly be utilized to everybody, so it’s going to assist hold the blood provide protected with out being discriminatory,” mentioned Morris.
FDA: “Revised Suggestions for Decreasing the Threat of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Merchandise.”
American Pink Cross: “Pink Cross Declares First-ever Blood Disaster amid Omicron Surge.”
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI.
American Medical Affiliation: “The FDA should raise its discriminatory blood-donor coverage.”
Christian Morris, recruiter, Whitman-Walker Well being Heart, Washington, DC.