The Food and Drug Administration released draft guidance Tuesday that recommends reforming a four-decade-old rule that bans blood donations from men who have had sex with another man.
The draft guidance is posted here.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin hailed proposal as progress, but said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that “it doesn’t go far enough.”
The existing policy, implemented amid the HIV/AIDS epidemic, has been widely criticized by medical and LGBT organizations as outdated and scientifically unjustifiable form of discrimination.
Under the new draft guidance, submitted to the federal register for public comment, blood donations would be allowed from men gay and bisexual men — but only if they have abstained from sex with another man in the previous year.
The new guidelines state:
Male donors previously deferred because of a history of sex with another man, even one time, since 1977, may be eligible to donate provided that they have not had sex with another man during the past 12 months and they meet all other donor eligibility criteria.
Male donors deferred because of a history of sex with another man in the past 12 months may be eligible to donate provided they have not had sex with another man during the past 12 months and they meet all other donor eligibility criteria.
But critics were quick to point out Tuesday that the new proposal policy would continue function as a ban for many gay men and bisexual men who have sex more than once a year.
“I am encouraged that the FDA is moving forward with guidance that will revise the discriminatory lifetime ban on blood donations,” said Senator Baldwin said. “This is a first step in ending an outdated policy that is medically and scientifically unwarranted, but it doesn’t go far enough.”
The draft guidance released Tuesday fleshes out details of a bare-bones proposal announced in December by officials for the Food and Drug Administration — a subdivision of the Health and Human Services (HHS).
Just before the December announcement, a group 80 congressional Democrats, including Senator Baldwin, sent HHS secretary Sylvia Burwell a letter calling for her to move toward a risk-based policy that assesses blood donors based on behavior that makes them more likely to contract HIV, rather than their sexual orientation. They also pushed to improve blood screening mechanisms but said a new policy should not hinge on those mechanisms being implemented.
Sen. Baldwin said in her statement, “I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and stakeholders to implement this first phase swiftly so we can soon achieve our ultimate goal of blood donation policies that are based on individual risk factors, that don’t unfairly single out one group of individuals, and that allow all healthy Americans to donate.”
In that vein, many advocates and lawmakers will be examining the draft guidance to determine if HHS considers this proposal a terminal for reforms or a step in a longterm plan to assert an entirely risk-based policy. They will also examine how the proposal addressed transgender blood donors.
Existing guidelines have been used to ban transgender people from donating blood, regardless of their gender.
Dominic Holden is the national LGBT reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Dominic Holden at firstname.lastname@example.org
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