Blood Donation Policy Change
Below, please view a joint letter sent to FDA Director Margaret Hamburg and Blood Safety Advisory Committee Chair Jerry Holberg, on the need to update blood donor restriction policies applying to gay and bisexual men.
June 8, 2010
AIDS Resource Center Ohio
AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
Columbus AIDS Task Force, Inc.
Dayton Area Stonewall
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland
Ohio AIDS Coalition
STOP AIDS (Cincinnati)
The Honorable Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993
Jerry A. Holmberg, PhD, Executive Secretary
Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability
Office of Public Health and Science
Department of Health and Human Services
1101 Wootton Parkway
Rockville, MD 20852
Dear Dr. Hamburg and Dr. Holmberg:
We write today to express our support for a reconsideration of the obsolete and medically baseless deferral criteria now in place for prospective blood donors.
Medical settings across the nation are in constant and urgent need of blood, and there is a large group of people—HIV-negative gay and bisexual men—ready and willing to help meet that need. Current blood deferral policies can be updated to ensure ongoing safety, while simultaneously opening up a larger pool of prospective donors—a pool that can provide an estimated 219,000 additional pints of blood every year.
The need for a revision of current policy is widely supported, and long-standing. The American Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers, and AABB reported before an FDA-sponsored workshop on March 9, 2006 that the ban on men who have had sex with other men (MSM), even once, since 1977 from ever donating blood “is medically and scientifically unwarranted.” Then in 2008, the Council on Science and Public Health at the American Medical Association also advocated modifying the lifetime deferral requirement for MSM. And while many recognize the well-intentioned origins of this ban, first established in 1983 at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis when modern screening procedures and advanced testing methods for HIV were yet to be developed, we live in a very different country than we did in 1983. Today, collecting facilities now screen all donors for history of certain high-risk behaviors, and FDA regulations determine that all donated blood be analyzed by two highly accurate screening tests. Consequently, the blood banking community believes that the lifetime deferral is no longer necessary to protect the integrity of the blood banks.
In addition, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights groups are united in their support for a modernization of deferral criteria, believing that the unnecessary association of HIV with all gay men further stigmatizes gay and bisexual men, and tends to discourage heterosexual from considering their own personal risk.
We therefore urge prompt action in revising current deferral guidelines to bring them in alignment with our current scientific understandings, and in order to safely respond to the critical need for blood products in nearly every region of the country.
AIDS Resource Center Ohio, AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, Columbus AIDS Task Force, Inc., Dayton Area Stonewall, Equality Ohio, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland, Ohio AIDS Coalition, STOP AIDS (Cincinnati)