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The government’s newly-relaxed blood donation rules for gay and bi men are already facing fierce opposition

Patrick Kelleher April 10, 2020
Blood donation ban UK

Gay and bisexual men still face outdated restrictions on blood donation. (Pexels)

Eighteen high ranking political figures in the United States have slammed the government’s new blood donation rules for queer men as “antiquated and discriminatory”.

The group consists of 17 lieutenant governors and Arizona’s secretary of state, who have hit out at the new rules in a strongly-worded letter written to Dr Stephen Hahn of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Before last week, gay and bisexual men in the United States were only allowed to donate blood if they abstained from sex for 12 months.

Last week, the FDA changed this to three months – but many have pointed out that the new measures do not go far enough as the pandemic has led to a shortage of blood supplies.

In the letter, the 18 signatories urged the government to scrap entirely the requirement for queer men to remain celibate in order to give blood.

The letter’s writers wondered why straight men face no restrictions in blood donation.

“This  is an antiquated and discriminatory ban that is not based in scientific evidence,” they wrote.

“Given the increased demand for blood and plasma donations due to COVID-19, keeping this ban in place is undermining our nation’s blood supply during a severe shortage, which could keep us from saving lives.”

They went on to say that the policy is clearly discriminatory as heterosexual men face no barriers in donating blood.

We urge you to lift this ban and help save lives.

“Our nation’s blood banks are currently experiencing severe shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shelter in place policies.”

The letter’s writers noted that the UCLA School of Law has estimated that the the lifting of the ban would make around 360,000 men eligible, thus bulking up the donor pool.

“This could help save the lives of more than a million Americans,” the letter continues.

“We urge you to lift this ban and help save lives,” the letter concluded.

Similar blood bans for queer men exist throughout the world.

The letter comes just a week after the FDA changed its restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood. Prior to last week, queer men were required to remain celibate for an entire year before they were eligible to give blood.

Similar policies exist throughout the world and are a hangover from the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

It was once common practice for men who had ever had sex with another man to be banned for life from donating blood – however, in recent years, various countries have eased up on this rule.

While the deferral period has begun to decrease across the world, many activists and health organisations have pointed out that it will not go far enough until it is lifted completely.

When the new measures were announced last week, GLAAD said it was a “victory”, but said they would continue to push for all queer men to be allowed to donate blood.

More: Coronavirus, fda, gay blood ban, United States

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