Close to two dozen Senate Democrats have called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide an update on its efforts to change what they refer to as “discriminatory blood donor deferral policies” for gay men.
In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Becerra and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf, Senate Democrats have asked them to act on the most up-to-date science and update its blood donation policies amid the first-ever declared national blood shortage.
U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) along with 23 of their colleagues have signed the letter and said that it would be a “long overdue step that would dramatically increase the eligible donor base.”
They further wrote that while they note and applaud the agency’s responsiveness in the early days of the pandemic when the FDA shortened the deferral period for men who have sex with men (MSM) from 12 months down to three months, it is “critical” that FDA take further action.
“For nearly 40 years, sexually active MSM have not been allowed to donate blood. This must change,” the letter reads.
According to the letter, as a result of the advances made in blood screening and safety technology, a time-based policy for gay and bisexual men is not scientifically sound.
They added that it continues to “effectively exclude an entire group of people from the donor base, and does not meet the urgent demands of the moment.”
They demanded that the FDA to adopt evidence-based policies focused on the assessment of an individual’s risk, instead of what they refer to as “inaccurate and antiquated stereotypes” currently present in the deferral guidelines.
The agency’s current deferral period of three months was updated from 12 months in 2020 to address the “urgent need” for blood during the COVID-19 pandemic.