June 1, 2020 at 1:42 pm PDT | by Chris Johnson
Schiff resolution calls for end to gay blood ban in favor of individual-risk policy
blood ban, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has introduced a resolution against the gay blood ban. (Blade file photo by Michael key)

Rep. Adam Schifff (D-Calif.) is leading a group of Democratic lawmakers in the introduction of a resolution calling for an end to the gay blood ban in favor of new guidance based on individual risk assessment.

“There is a large contingent of healthy people that are able and willing to donate blood and plasma, but antiquated regulations prevent them from doing so,” Schiff said in a statement. “This resolution calls for a repeal of discriminatory guidelines against members of the LGBTQ community, and encourages them to be replaced with science-based criteria for individual-risk assessment. It’s long past time these changes were made, especially during the current global crisis.”

The resolution calls for a blood donation policy grounded in science with minimal deferral periods. Further, the resolution should be based on individual risk factors, not unfairly single out any group of individuals and allow donations by all those who can safely do so.

Joining Schiff in introducing the resolution is Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), and Katherine Clark (D-Mass.).

Amid the blood supply shortage during the coronavirus crisis, the Food & Drug Administration eased the restrictions on blood donors, including donations from men who have sex with men. The previous policy, established in 2015, required gay men to be abstinent for 12 months before making a donation, but the FDA eased the policy to require a shorter period of 3 months without having sex.

The FDA has placed restrictions on gay blood donors since the height of the AIDS crisis in 1983, when a lifetime ban on donations from men who have sex with men was implemented. The 2015 policy under the Obama administration eased that ban to require the 12-month period of abstinence.

Although the Trump administration eased the ban even further, LGBTQ rights advocates have said the change isn’t enough and remains discriminatory against gay and bisexual men. Instead of a broad-based ban, they call for screening based on individual risk practices, such having multiple sex partners or engaging in unsafe sex practices.

Scott Schoettes, counsel and HIV project director at Lambda Legal, commended the lawmakers in a statement for introducing the resolution, calling a policy applying to all people with a shorter deferral period.

“A shorter deferral period applied to all people engaged in certain risk behaviors, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, will create a truly nondiscriminatory policy,” Schoettes said.

The Food & Drug Administration has announced it has begun a pilot study to evaluate whether the current policy on gay blood donors should be dropped in favor of an individual risk policy. The results of that study, which is in its early stages, remains to be seen.

The Blade has placed a request with Schiff’s office seeking comment on whether Democratic leadership has indicated the resolution would receive a floor vote.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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