Congressman tells FDA to end gay blood donation ban

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose, Calif. is telling the Food and Drug Administration to end the nation’s ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men. Since 1977, the federal government has forced blood donation centers to turn away any men who have sex with other men (MSM) from donating blood.

Honda is attempting to escalate a campaign to end this policy through a petition on activist website CREDO.

“The FDA should end the ban, and revise its policy, and focus on behavior and individual risk, and not on sexual orientation,” Honda said in a press conference on Monday, ahead of a local blood drive.

Honda stresses that the ban is discriminatory and unwarranted, considering the improved science of screening donations. In fact, every donation made by Americans are screened for HIV/AIDS before storage and use.

“This ban, which is based on fears that are decades old and discounted by science, is contributing to the critical shortage in the American blood supply,” Honda says on the petition.

The American Medical Association and the American Red Cross oppose the ban on MSM blood donations. Scientifically advanced nations like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Japan have lifted their own bans.

But the administration stands by its policy, saying on its website, “FDA’s deferral policy is based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex and is not based on any judgment concerning the donor’s sexual orientation.”

Honda disagrees, “We need to apply science and data to this issue.”

Lifesource is the leading blood donation service in the Greater Chicago Area.

“All directed donors must meet the same strict regulatory requirements set by the [FDA] for the general blood supply. Any directed donation that does not meet the regulatory requirements will be destroyed,” the Lifesource website explains. “Directed donors must also meet the same criteria as general blood donors regarding prior health history and high-risk activities. Directed donors will be deferred from giving based upon the standard regulatory requirements for blood donation.”

As part of a national campaign to end the ban, Chicago’s Howard Brown Health Center will be opening its doors on Friday, Jul. 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. for the National Gay Blood Drive. The event asks gay and bisexual men to express their want to donate by bringing an eligible friend to donate blood in their place.

Honda’s petition currently has over 51,000 signatures.

Activists are also encouraging people to contact their House and Senate members to lobby for a change.

About Gerald Farinas

An Edgewater Beach resident, Gerry is managing editor and interim editor-in-chief of Chicago Phoenix. He is concurrently a social services professional and media consultant. For more info: www.geraldfarinas.com.

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