U.S. Representatives Push to End Gay Blood Ban

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Wednesday Feb 5, 2014

On Jan. 30, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) observed National Blood Donor Month with a call for the need to reevaluate the donation criteria that prevents men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood for life. Critics have lambasted the policy, which focuses on sexual orientation rather than risk level.

"Patients across the country need lifesaving blood transfusions, yet we turn away thousands of healthy potential donors because of their sexual orientation," said Rep. Quigley. "It's time to end this discriminatory policy, encourage more volunteer blood donations, and ensure that we have access to this vital, lifesaving resource when and where it's needed most."

Quigley teamed up with U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to introduce a resolution honoring January as "National Blood Donor Month" and emphasizing the importance of volunteer blood donation to our nation's public health.

The resolution supports the designation of National Blood Donor Month and while it does not mention MSM specifically, it "acknowledges the important role of volunteer blood donors in protecting the health and emergency preparedness security of the United States" and "recognizes the need to promote a safe stable blood supply and to increase volunteer participation of blood donors and endorses efforts to update blood donation policies in a safe and scientifically sound manner."

The current lifetime ban on MSM donating blood was put in place during the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, but is no longer scientifically justified with current blood screening technology. In 2010, the HHS Advisory Committee on Blood & Tissue Safety & Availability (ACBTSA) found the ban to be suboptimal and asked for re-evaluation of this policy.

The blood banking community, including the American Red Cross and America's Blood Centers, has long-supported a change in policy. Last year, the American Medical Association (AMA) passed a resolution opposing the current lifetime ban, based on its discriminatory and non-scientific basis. Instead, the AMA supports donation deferral policies that are based on an individual's level of risk.

Rep. Quigley has previously worked with then-Senator John Kerry to urge HHS to examine alternative blood donor deferral criteria and has long believed the policy should match modern science and reflect risky behavior rather than sexual orientation. He is a member of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a tireless advocate for the LGBT community.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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