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Massachusetts health officials urge FDA to end gay men’s blood donation deferral policy

Health

The policy, which they say is discriminatory, has its roots in the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

Blood and platelet donations have declined during the pandemic. Mike Simons, Tulsa World

Massachusetts health officials have joined others in a letter urging the FDA to get rid of a policy that effectively bars gay and bisexual men, as well as other queer people, from donating blood , the Boston Herald reported Monday.

The letter comes as the country faces its worst blood shortage in a decade, the newspaper wrote.

Health officials signed a letter to the FDA commissioner to rescind its 90-day blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men, the Herald reported.

This policy dates back to the time of the AIDS epidemic and was once even more restrictive, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Originally, it prohibited men who have sex with men from donating blood. Then, in 2015, they were banned from donating blood within a year of having sex with another man. Since 2020, it has prohibited them from donating within 90 days of having sex with another man.

“There is no credible evidence that the 90-day MSM (men who have sex with men) blood donation deferment period improves the security of the country’s blood donation supply,” they said. writes North Carolina health officials to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf.

“And therefore, the continuation of this policy only serves to further stigmatize an already marginalized demographic and unnecessarily restrict the eligible donor population during a time of extraordinary need in the United States. The current policy is ineffective, unnecessary, and discriminatory. .”

Massachusetts health officials who joined the letter include Marylou Sudders, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke, the Herald reported.

Other states supporting North Carolina’s letter were Connecticut, New York, California, Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota and Kentucky, Herald reported. The director of the DC Department of Health also signed off.

“The FDA requires that all blood donations undergo nucleic acid testing for HIV, a test that can detect HIV within two weeks of infection, the letter states.

“Therefore, the risk of HIV-infected blood entering donation pools is negligible,” they added. “This diagnostic screening should be combined with an individual risk-based assessment based on our solid knowledge of how HIV is transmitted, and not applied in a discriminatory way to an entire group of individuals.”

The American Red Cross has also expressed support for the end of the policy.

the Herald reported that the American Medical Association has also urged the FDA to remove its 90-day blood donor deferral policy for men who have sex with men.