A group of Democratic lawmakers Monday urged Health and Human Services (HHS) officials to move swiftly on a pilot study on blood-donor policies so that the “indefensible” and “discriminatory” ban on donations by gay and bisexual men can be lifted.
The HHS pilot study should explore ways to distinguish high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM) from low-risk MSM “to avoid deferring low-risk, healthy, and viable blood donors from within the MSM community from donating blood,” Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and Rep. Mike Quigley, Illinois Democrat, wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Ten other Senate Democrats plus Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with them, also signed.
For instance, the donor questionnaire “could collect information on whether or not the donor is in a monogamous relationship, or if the donor engages in effective preventive measures,” they wrote.
This would allow the risk level of all potential donors to be assessed, regardless of sexual orientation, the lawmakers said, adding that it is “indefensible” that “healthy gay and bisexual men continue to be banned for life” while “a man who has had sex with an HIV-positive woman” can give blood after waiting only one year.
Current U.S. policy, established during the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis, permanently defers any man who has had sex with a man since 1977. In 2010, federal advisors, who heard reports on blood safety from HIV-infected persons, declined to change the donor policy but called for new research.