Says US lags behind Canada, UK & other countries in lifting blanket deferral policy
On World Blood Donor Day, Congressman Brian Higgins is calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change existing blood donation standards that, his team said, discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
In a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, Higgins writes, “It is widely acknowledged in the scientific and medical communities agree that eligibility for blood donation should be based on individual risk and that determining eligibility solely on sexual orientation and gender identity is not a necessary safety measure when considering the risk of blood-based diseases such as HIV/AIDS. In addition to risk assessment measures, FDA-qualified blood donation centers are required to screen donated blood for blood-borne diseases. As part of implementing the recently lifted ban, Canada will instate a new donor screening approach. In addition to Canada, seven other nations recently lifting blood donation restrictions on gay and bisexual men including the United Kingdom, Greece, France, Israel, Hungary, Denmark, and Brazil. It is clear that the three-month deferral requirement is not only unnecessary, but hurtful to willing donors turned away only for their sexual orientation and harmful for the millions of Americans in need of blood transfusions during this shortage.”
A press release noted, “Currently, men who have had sex with a man (MSM) within the last three months are ineligible to donate blood. In 1983, the FDA first implemented a policy imposing a lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. Later guidance was adjusted to a 12-month deferral for MSM and, in April of 2020, a three-month deferral.”
Canada recently announced plans to remove its existing three month deferral policy for gay and bisexual men by September 2022. The UK implemented change to blood donation criteria in 2021.
Higgins’ team added, “The FDA launched the Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility (ADVANCE) study in December of 2020, which examines using risk assessment factors instead of a blanket restriction to determine donor eligibility – but over a year-and-a-half later, no further action has been taken.”
In January 2022, the American Red Cross declared the shortage of blood products to be at crisis levels.