- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A California gay rights group has launched a “mobilization campaign” to step up the pressure on federal officials to change blood donor policy to admit gay and bisexual men as donors.

The new campaign, called “Every Drop Counts,” will ask the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and its allies, including elected officials and community leaders, to advocate for the end of the ban through public advocacy.

“The FDA blood ban is discrimination, pure and simple,” Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California (EQCA), said this week.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) blood donor policies “should be based on modern scientific research and findings rather than archaic assumptions and fears,” Mr. Zbur said. “Ending this discriminatory ban is a priority for our community.”

Current FDA donor policy permanently defers men who have had sex with a man (MSM) since 1977. It was implemented during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, after it was discovered that AIDS was transmitted by blood. Thousands of hemophiliacs, including Ryan White and Ricky Ray, died of AIDS because of infected transfusions.

A federal advisory panel on blood safety agreed in 2010 the MSM policy was “suboptimal,” and asked for several research projects to guide them to a new policy.

The results of that research will be discussed Nov. 13 by the Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability. Additional meetings are scheduled on the MSM issue in early December.

Major blood banks and others agree there should be a policy change, but there is disagreement on how to change it.

Most countries require MSM to have a year or more of sexual abstinence before they can give blood.

However, gay rights groups prefer a policy that looks at risky sexual behaviors — such as activities conducted outside a monogamous relationship — as a reason to defer blood donations.

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