12.22.15

Rep. Lee Responds to FDA Policy Change to Blood Donor Deferral Policy for MSM

Oakland, CA – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) released the following statement regarding the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) policy change of the blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men (MSM) from lifetime ban to one-year deferral:

“I applaud today’s decision from the Food and Drug Administration to lift the discriminatory lifetime blood donation ban for members of the MSM community. However, the policy of one year deferral still maintains the long outdated policies concerning blood donations from the MSM community without scientific justification,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Blood and blood products are critical to the treatment of many medical conditions and blood supplies are chronically low, especially around the holidays. Our blood donation policies should be based on science, not fear. I have called and will continue to call for blood donation policies that are based on the best possible science, data and technical capacity to ensure public health.”

The previous lifetime ban on MSM donating blood was put in place during the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s, 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. In response to a letter from legislators in 2013, HHS indicated that the Department will finish deliberations on a policy change to the blood ban by the end of 2014.

In 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) passed a resolution opposing the current lifetime ban as discriminatory and not based on sound science. Instead, the AMA supports new donation deferral policies that are based on an individual’s level of risk. The blood banking community, including the American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers, has also long-supported a change in policy.

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Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.