Realisation dawns on senators that AIDS-era restrictions on blood donation aren’t helpful during coronavirus crisis
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, along with 15 other senators, have urged the Trump administration to allow gay and bisexual men donate blood due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 17 senators told the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a letter that it needs to change its rules in order to meet blood transfusion demands due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Under current rules, queer men must abstain from sex for 12-months in order to donate blood. The policy – which also exists in many other countries – was first introduced during the AIDS epidemic.
The group of senators wrote to the FDA to express their concern at the administration’s refusal to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and others urged the US government to move away from ‘stigmatising donation policies’ during coronavirus.
In the letter, they said the US government “must take every possible step to secure our nation’s blood supply in this critical time”.
“We need to shift away from antiquated and stigmatising donation policies to ones that are scientifically sound, based on individual risk, and inclusive of all potential healthy blood donors,” the letter said.
The letter said it is “vital” that Americans have “access to health care services they need” during the current crisis – and suggested archaic blood donation rules could jeopardise this.
“Unfortunately, our nation’s blood supply has been severely constrained due to a decline in healthy donation.”
The senators referenced a recent projection that the United States could see 355,000 fewer blood donations due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and said all healthy donors should be allowed to give blood.
We need to shift away from antiquated and stigmatising donation policies to ones that are scientifically sound, based on individual risk, and inclusive of all potential healthy blood donors.
“While government health officials encourage every healthy individual to consider donating blood, the FDA continues to enforce a discriminatory donor deferral policy that effectively prohibits many healthy gay and bisexual men from doing so,” the letter said.
The senators said they are “steadfastly committed to ending” the blood donation ban for gay and bisexual men and argued that time-based deferral policies are “not scientifically sound”.
They also said the increased uptake in queer men using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has reduced their chances of contracting HIV.
They asked the administration to ‘not unfairly single out one group of individuals’.
“As such, it is imperative that we move away from discriminatory donor deferral policies that prohibit many healthy individuals from contributing much-needed blood and blood products.”
The letter concludes: “In light of this shortage, we urge you to swiftly update blood donor deferral policies in favour 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 health Americans to donate.”
Other signatories on the letter include Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar.
The letter, which was dated March 26, comes as the United States has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other country in the world.
The US has more than 80,000 cases and has now overtaken both China and Italy, and more than 1,200 people there have died from COVID-19.