Los Angeles, CA – On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to send a five-signature letter to Federal Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert M. Califf to express support for the newly proposed FDA guidelines that ease the federal agency’s discriminatory blood donor policy. Current blood donation policies take sexual orientation into account when determining eligibility for blood donation. The new guidelines would eliminate the current restrictions based on sexual orientation and replace them with a risk-based questionnaire for all blood donors.
“For decades, gay and bisexual men who were already being marginalized in so many other areas of life have also been excluded from donating blood. That policy is outdated and irresponsible,” said Chair Janice Hahn, who authored the motion. “Limiting who is allowed to safely donate blood makes the work of saving lives harder. Today, all donated blood is rigorously tested to detect blood-borne diseases, including STIs. To continue denying people the ability to donate blood based on their sexual orientation is not only discriminatory, it’s unscientific.”
The motion underscores that “these new guidelines do not remove all existing restrictions on LGBTQ blood donors, but they represent a step in the right direction and should be supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.”
“I am happy to see that the Food and Drug Administration is addressing policies that have discriminated against gay and bisexual men from donating blood – an important and much-needed public service,” said the motion’s coauthor Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath. “I hope that this is simply the beginning and that the guidelines continue to expand equitable access to life-saving blood donation, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
Current blood donor policy requires gay or bisexual men to abstain from sex for a minimum of three months before they can donate blood. The roots of the policy date back to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s, in an era when HIV was poorly understood by scientists and doctors. For years, the American Medical Association has been calling on the FDA to remove this discriminatory ban and treat all potential blood donors equally.