Moving forward towards a science-based, non-discriminatory policy on blood donations

by: Adam Bink

Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 18:00

Next week, the FDA, which oversees policy relating to donor eligibility to donate blood, will meet to consider revising the ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) giving blood. The ban has been in place since 1986 in an era of fear around HIV infection spread through the national blood supply coupled with the lack of sound testing mechanisms as well as treatment.

Since then, the medical community has moved significantly in both testing, diagnosis and treatment. Specifically, testing is now available that allows for a significantly shorter window period when HIV is undetectable of approximately 9 to 11 days. Yet still, a lifetime ban still is slapped on anyone who has had sex, even once, with another man since 1977, and it doesn't even matter whether or not the individual was HIV-positive or negative. The lifetime ban obviously applies significantly to the the population of self-identified gay men, not to mention other individuals who are heterosexuals and experimented once (say, in college), identify as bisexual or questioning, and so forth. But if you're a heterosexual who has had sex with another knowingly  HIV-positive person, you get a one-year deferral, and then can donate again.

The law makes zero sense and has been something that has angered me for a long time. My grandfather received many blood transfusions and donating in the memory of people like him who need help has always motivated me. I am O negative and the Red Cross keeps calling me to ask me to give, and each time my anger at being forced to decline grows. I want to give, as do many, many other people. This has advanced to a point where it is not only bad science and discrimination, but damaging to the nation's medical health. You always read and hear about blood supply being critically low, and it's true. Less than 5% of all eligible donors in the United States give. Blood donation recipients include mothers delivering babies, trauma victims, cancer patients, transplant patients, and more. Other countries like Sweden, Argentina, Australia and Japan have either revised or completely lifted the ban, while Italy, Spain and France screen donors based on risk rather than a blanket ban on a community.

The FDA last met in 2006 to look at revising the policy and did not take action. The American Red Cross, America's Blood Centers, American Association of Blood Banks and the American Medical Association all support a revised policy. It's time to revise the ban in favor of a sound, science-based, non-discriminatory policy that is both medically warranted and just.

Today, I'm happy to say DC Councilmember David Catania led passage of a resolution in favor of such a revision. It passed unanimously, and follows the NYC Council recently passing a similar resolution by a vote of 42-1. You can read the text of the resolution in the extended entry. OpenLeft will also be rolling out an action you can take to help revise the ban.

Adam Bink :: Moving forward towards a science-based, non-discriminatory policy on blood donations
Councilmember David A. Catania



To declare the sense of the Council in support of the use of science-based eligibility criteria for
blood donation.

RESOLVED, BY THE COUNCIL OF THR DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this resolution may be cited as the "Sense of the Council in Support of Using Science-Based Eligibility Criteria for Blood Donation Resolution of 2010."

Sec. 2. The Council finds that:
(1) The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency responsible for protecting the public health, and assures the safety of pharmaceutical and biologic products, including donated blood.

(2) In 1982, when there were no HIV tests or HIV treatments, and little was known about HIV and AIDS, the FDA imposed a lifetime deferment, or permanent ban, on blood donation by any man who has had sex with another man (MSM), at any time since 1977, from donating blood.

(3) The FDA justifies this policy by citing that 1977 was the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and that MSMs are at a greater risk of HIV, which can be transmitted by transfusion.

(4) In the almost 30 years since the FDA's decision to exclude MSMs from donating blood, the medical community has made great strides in preventing, diagnosing, treating, and understanding HIV/AIDS.

(5) The FDA's lifetime restriction on MSMs from donating blood fails to consider the potential donor's actual health status and whether the potential donor has actually engaged in high risk sexual activity.

(6) The only other groups permanently excluded from donating blood are intravenous drug users, people who have received animal tissue or organs, people who traveled to or live in certain countries due to the risk of transmitting malaria or variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and people who have accepted money or drugs in exchange for sex.

(7) Nationally, an individual needs a life saving blood transfusion once every 3 seconds. Though 60 percent of Americans are eligible to donate blood, less than 5 percent of people, on average, actually donates. Each day approximately 4.5 million Americans benefit from life-saving blood transfusions each year. A single blood donation can save 3 lives.

(8) Recipients of blood donation include cancer patients, burn and trauma victims, new born babies, transplant patients, mothers delivering babies, surgery patients, and patients suffering from sickle cell disease or thalassemia, among others.

(9) Limiting the population of potential blood donors leaves numerous vulnerable individuals in need of receiving life-saving blood.

(10) South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Hungary, Japan, Sweden, and New Zealand have all imposed a time period in which MSMs must wait before being allowed to donate, while Russia has completely lifted the ban. Other countries, such as Italy, Spain, and France, screen potential donors for high-risk sexual practices, rather than specific groups of people, and exclude all individuals who have engaged in risky sexual behavior from donating blood.

(11) Numerous public health groups including the American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, America's Blood Centers, the American Medical Association, and the Gay Men's Health Crisis and other leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations have urged that the FDA's lifetime restriction be revised.

(12) The FDA recently announced that they will reexamine the restrictions on blood donation by MSMs and that the United States Department of Health and Human Services' blood safety committee will consider this issue in June 2010.

Sec. 3. It is the sense of the Council of the District of Columbia calls upon the United States Food and Drug Administration to reverse the lifetime deferment for blood donation for men who have had sex with men since 1977 in favor of a policy that protects the safety and integrity of the blood supply that is based on an up-to-date scientific data.

Sec. 4. This resolution shall take effect immediately.

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Even Worse Than You Think (0.00 / 0)
The FDA says it's OK to donate blood if you are man or woman who is a world-class heterosexual athlete (or addict). You can have unprotected sex with as many people as you want, as recently as you want, in whatever fashion you want, as long as everyone is of the opposite sex and as long as you don't pay for it, unless you're psychic and can answer "yes" to certain medical history questions about your thousands of partners -- precisely the sort of medical history questions a highly promiscuous person wouldn't be able to answer in the affirmative because he/she would probably know almost nothing about their sex partners.

So, according to the FDA, a monogamous married gay man who has only had sex with his lifetime-faithful spouse is ineligible, but a guy who sleeps with as many women as possible is likely eligible. Moreover, men who rape as many women as possible are also eligible. Absurd, isn't it?

Also, in my opinion the FDA has completely overreacted to CJD risk in banning the donations of people who have lived in the U.K. for a cumulative period of 6 months in the 1980s and early 1990s. Even if they were vegetarians, for example.

When I read the article I thought of Ryan White (0.00 / 0)

Ryan White was born at St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Kokomo, Indiana, to Jeanne Elaine Hale and Hubert Wayne White. When he was six days old, doctors diagnosed him with severe Hemophilia A, a hereditary blood coagulation disorder associated with the x chromosome, which causes even minor injuries to result in severe bleeding. For treatment, he received transfusions of Factor VIII, a blood product created from pooled plasma  of non-hemophiliacs, an increasingly common treatment for hemophiliacs at the time.[3]

Healthy for most of his childhood, he became extremely ill with pneumonia in December 1984. On December 17, 1984, during a partial-lung removal procedure, White was diagnosed with AIDS. The scientific community knew little about AIDS at the time: scientists had only realized earlier that year that HIV was the cause of AIDS. White had received a contaminated treatment of Factor VIII that was infected with HIV. Because HIV had only been recently identified as the AIDS virus, much of the pooled factor VIII concentrate supply was tainted because doctors did not know how to test for the disease, and donors did not know they were infected. Among hemophiliacs treated with blood-clotting factors between 1979 and 1984, nearly 90% became infected with HIV.[3] At the time of his diagnosis, his T-cell count had dropped to 25 (a healthy individual without HIV will have around 1,200).


Is Councilmember David A. Catania, the DC Councilmember who proposed and had passed a resolution which supported same sex marriage, and refused to allow DC residents vote on the measure?  Marion Barry was the only member of the Council who voted against same sex marriage. It was implied that DC residents were not allowed to vote on same sex marriage, because the Chairman of the DC Council knew they would vote against the measure...


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DC voting (0.00 / 0)
Existing DC law going back for decades prohibits ballot votes on civil rights.

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