Equality California Launches Campaign to End the FDA’s Discriminatory Blood Donation Ban

Equality California, the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization in California, today launched a mobilization campaign to urge the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration to end the discriminatory lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men. EQCA’s campaign called “Every Drop Counts” will mobilize the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its allies, including elected officials and community leaders, to advocate for the end of the ban through direct, public advocacy.

Established in 1983 during a time of great fear and little knowledge about HIV or AIDS, the current FDA donor-deferral policy prohibits blood donation by men who have had sex with another man even one time since 1977. In the 31 years since the policy was instituted, the medical community’s knowledge of HIV and its ability to test for it has improved dramatically, but the policy has not been updated to reflect those changes.

“The FDA blood ban is discrimination, pure and simple,” said Rick Zbur, EQCA executive director. “FDA blood donor eligibility policies should be based on modern scientific research and findings rather than archaic assumptions and fears. Ending this discriminatory ban is a priority for our community and we call on our members, supporters and allies around the country to join EQCA in demanding that the FDA end this ban.”

Medical organizations including the American Red Cross, the American Association for Blood Banks, America’s Blood Centers and the American Medical Association have all called for a reevaluation and change of the policy because of its excessively broad nature and advances in blood testing.

In August, Equality California partnered with Assemblymember Richard Bloom to advance an assembly joint resolution — overwhelmingly approved by both the Assembly and Senate — urging President Barack Obama to compel the Department of Health and Human Services and FDA to adopt modernized blood donor policies that do not discriminate against men who have had sex with other men.

The Williams Institute, a national think tank based at UCLA School of Law, estimates that an additional 130,150 men would likely donate 219,200 additional pints of blood each year if the ban were lifted, helping blood banks in the United States which routinely operate with short supplies, especially after significant disasters or national emergencies.

The FDA’s Blood Products Advisory Committee is meeting this year to examine the issue. Equality California is urging supporters to send letters to DHHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg publicly calling for an end to the ban. EQCA will present the signatures to officials later this year.

Equality California joins other LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay Blood Drive, in its efforts to bring about an end to this outdated and discriminatory ban.

Equality California is California’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization focused on creating a fair and just society. Our mission is to achieve and maintain full and lasting equality, acceptance, and social justice for all people in our diverse LGBT communities, inside and outside of California. Our mission includes advancing the health and well being of LGBT Californians through direct healthcare service advocacy and education. Through electoral, advocacy, education and mobilization programs, we strive to create a broad and diverse alliance of LGBT people, educators, government officials, communities of color and faith, labor, business, and social justice communities to achieve our goals. www.eqca.org