Senators Urge FDA to End 'Discriminatory' Blood Donation Policy
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (L) talks to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WA) (R) during a hearing before Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee February 10, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.Alex Wong / Getty Images
By Sylvia Cunningham
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. joined forces Monday to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reconsider the policy restricting blood donations from men who have had sex with men in the past year.
FDA public affairs specialist Tara Goodin wrote in an email to NBC OUT that the FDA will continue to review its policies to “ensure they reflect the most up-to-date scientific knowledge.”
When asked if the time frame would be affected by these efforts from Baldwin and other senators, Goodin said “this process must be data-driven, so the time frame for future changes is not something we can predict.”
Goodin told NBC OUT the policy that a man who has had sex with another man during the past 12 months refrain from donating blood is based on data known about the HIV epidemiology.
In the letter to the FDA, the senators wrote, “a one-year deferral continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes about an entire group of individuals and remains a de facto lifetime ban for many healthy gay and bisexual men.”
Jurss said he wholeheartedly agrees with the senators that assessing donors "based on individual risk factors" is the right approach.
"A woman or even a heterosexual male could have the AIDS virus due to other circumstances, but they are not prevented from giving blood," Jurss said to NBC OUT. "The blood is still tested for HIV, so it's unfair to use blanket discrimination to prevent healthy men from donating."
Goodin said although the FDA considered alternate deferral criteria, documentation from other countries, including Australia, showed the 12-month deferral was found to “maintain the safety of the blood supply.”
“Evidence shows that self-reporting presents significant issues in the U.S. for a number of reasons, including lack of sufficient data on the effectiveness of donor educational questionnaires and lack of reliability in self-reports of monogamy by partners in any type of sexual relationship,” Goodin wrote.
Goodin said the FDA will review the letter from the senators and respond directly to the authors.