Pressure Mounts to Allow Gay Men to Donate Blood Amid Covid-19 Shortage

Amid a national blood shortage, FDA policies disallowing gay men from donating blood are under renewed scrutiny. The current federal guidelines state: “Defer for 12 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 12 months.”

Last November, The American Red Cross, while not coming out entirely against deferral has stated it would prefer the length of time be reduced to three months, and that the FDA should be researching if any deferral at all is called for.

Now, Oregon’s U.S. Senators have weighed in sending a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, writing “We write to express our concern with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) discriminatory blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly in the midst of a nationwide shortage of donated blood and blood products spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote. “We must take every possible step to secure our nation’s blood supply in this critical time, and in order to do so, we need to shift away from antiquated and stigmatizing donation policies to ones that are scientifically sound, based on individual risk, and inclusive of all potential healthy blood donors.”

“In light of this shortage, we urge you to swiftly update blood donor deferral policies in favor of ones that are grounded in science, are based on individual risk factors, do not unfairly single out one group of individuals, and allow all healthy Americans to donate. We strongly encourage you to consider this critical solution as you work to develop a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure that Americans have access to life-saving blood transfusions,” the senators concluded.

The full text of the senators’ letter is available here and follows below.

Merkley and Wyden were joined on the letter by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).